This Time The Road is Kind: Cal whips WSU in Pullman, 66-57

By Morris Phillips

The Cal Bears had to take their most arduous trip, and find the most vulnerable opponent–in a rare Wednesday night contest–to end their road woes.

No need to ask: they’ll take it.

Paris Austin, Andre Kelly and Matt Bradley combined for 46 points in Cal’s 66-57 win over Washington State, their first win away from Haas Pavilion this season. The Bears had dropped all six of their previous road contests as well as three, neutral site games in November and December.

“For this team, no one gave them a chance to have much success so any time that they have some I want them to enjoy it and understand how they found that success so they can build on it,” coach Mark Fox said.

“Hopefully tonight they can enjoy this victory and look back and see why we won the game so it can happen again.”

Since losing their final, three non-conference games, then their Pac-12 opener to Stanford, Cal has won five of 12, equaling their number of conference wins the last two seasons combined. Beating WSU almost insures they won’t finish last in the Pac-12 this season with five games remaining.

The Bears built a 17-point, first half lead only to see the Cougars get within six points with less than two minutes remaining. Leading 60-54, Cal converted six free throw attempts to close it out.

Isaac Bonton, WSU’s starting point guard and second-leading scorer missed the game with a leg injury. Benton’s absence left WSU out of sync offensively, especially leading scorer C.J. Elleby, who missed 14 of his 18 shot attempts.

 

Running With the Devils: Bears acquit themselves quite respectably in 80-75 loss to Arizona State

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–A high-scoring game is the last thing the Cal Bears want to be involved in.

Unless, you’re a Cal fan and ticket holder, then your attitude is probably why not?

The Bears’ rebuilding process that landed them in the Pac-12 basement in 2018 and 2019 has them traversing the bottom tier of Division I point-producers in 2020. Coming into Cal’s home game against Arizona State on Sunday, the Bears ranked 335th (out of 350) in scoring offense averaging a bare bones 62.2 points per game.

With the notable exceptions of defending National Champion Virginia (ranked 347th) and NCAA-worthy Wisconsin (302), it’s the bottom of a list teams would rather avoid. Littered with struggling squads across Division I, it’s a place where anxiety abounds. Players doubt their abilities, coaches like Shaka Smart of Texas (325) find themselves on the hot seat, and ticket holders check out faster than they check in.

For Cal, hosting red-hot ASU, averaging 77 points a game over a four-game win streak that has the Sun Devils dreaming of the NCAA Tournament, seemed like more bad news in a season that’s already been trying enough.

But it wasn’t. The Bears battled Arizona State into the final minute in a 80-75 loss that turned on a late ASU surge and the brillance of Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year candidate Remy Martin.

Martin had 22 points–15 in the second half–as ASU built an eight-point lead with three minutes remaining and held on to win for the seventh time in eight games. The Bears shot 48 percent in the second half–and scored nine points in the final 45 seconds–to make it a close shave, and a watchable, competitive affair.

“Sometimes in defeats you play well but we didn’t win, which is what we came here to do,” coach Mark Fox admitted.

Martin, the senior from Los Angeles, and arguably college basketball’s most prominent Filipino-American player, has scored in double figures in all 12 conference games. In nine of those, including Sunday, he’s scored at least 20.

“He hits the deep 3, he hit the shot off one leg and stopped, just really high level of difficulty shots but he get so much attention from defenses it’s really never easy for him to score too often,” coach Bobby Hurley said of Martin. “He continues to surprise me, the things I see him do out there.”

The Sun Devils achieved a conference road sweep for the first time in a decade with the win. ASU also beat Stanford 74-69 on Thursday. The rare, but also quirky, occurrence happens rarely, just not normally only once a decade. This season in the Pac-12, only ASU and Arizona (both occurrences this weekend) have accomplished the feat.

“I know its been talked about quite a bit but it’s not really a thing for me,” Hurley said of ASU’s first sweep since January 2010 over the Oregon schools. “It’s more where we stand right now, just can ill afford to lose, and got to keep it rolling the way we’ve been.”

Matt Bradley led Cal with 20 of his 22 points after halftime. Grant Anticevich added 18 points, eight rebounds and Paris Austin had 17. The Bears (10-15, 4-8) have lost seven of nine since sweeping the Washington schools, but remain in a tight grouping of five schools, placed seventh through 11th, for seeding in the upcoming conference tournament.

Cal visits Pullman, Washington and Washington State on Thursday night.

 

 

Wildcat Wakeup Call: Lethargic Arizona surges after halftime, beats Cal 68-52

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Cal’s season-long shooting issues didn’t get corrected on Thursday night. Arizona’s shooting struggles created last week at home against the Los Angeles schools did, with a jolt of confidence that surfaced in a timely manner after halftime.

Some issues are chronic, some are fleeting. In a 16-point road victory over Cal, Arizona and sharpshooter Dylan Smith found theirs are fleeting. Smith helped UA break open a one-point game with four, consecutive made 3-pointers–after 18 misses dating back to late January–as the Wildcats surged to a comfortable 68-52 win over host Cal.

Arizona coach Sean Miller considered benching Smith and his balky jump shot against Cal. Ultimately, he penciled the fifth-year senior into the lineup because Miller knew Smith would help Arizona win. Miller’s intuition was spot on.

“It’s just I don’t want Dylan Smith to be the scapegoat because we lost a home game or because he’s shooting poorly,” Miller said. “You don’t start him tonight and all of a sudden that’s the answer.”

The Bears lost their third straight, after a competitive start that saw them trail by seven at the half, and 33-32 with 13:59 remaining, only to see their offense lose steam down the stretch. Cal shot 38 percent for the game, but their starters shot just 32 percent with the majority of the misses in the game’s final 10 minutes.

“We have to keep the score down,” coach Mark Fox explained. “At 32-33, they went on a 7-0 run, and we never threatened after that. When they got into the bonus with 12 minutes to go, it makes it hard for us to run the style of play that gives us the best chance to win.”

The Pac-12’s lowest scoring team, and also the team with the slowest pace, scored exactly 52 points for the fifth time this season. On four of those occasions–including Thursday–the Bears (10-14, 4-7) suffered a double-digit loss.

“We want it to be a low-scoring game,” Matt Bradley said. “For us to win games, we need to play defense. Tonight, our defense wasn’t there, and that’s why we lost.”

Bradley led Cal with 19 points, eight rebounds, but he missed 11 of his 18 shots. Bradley was the only Cal player in double digits, Grant Anticevich and Andre Kelly each added eight points.

The Bears get an opportunity to better energize their Haas Pavilion crowd on Sunday afternoon when Arizona State visits at 3pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca: Cal needs to bone up for Arizona Thursday night at Haas

calbears.com photo: The Cal Bears Paris Austin (3) and Matt Bradley (20) get ready for tonight’s game with the Arizona Wildcats at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley

On the Cal Bears podcast with Michael:

#1 In Cal’s (10-13) last game in Utah (14-9) the Bears didn’t have a chance as the Utes clobbered Cal 60-45 almost the lowest score of the season for Cal

#2 The Utes kept the Bears top scorer Matt Bradley under wraps with 13 points and the results were some solid defense

#3 Cal head coach Mark Fox wanted to get more shots from his other offensive players Grant Anticevich, Kareem South, and Paris Austin but again the Utes found ways to contain them as well

#4 The Utes Timmy Allen has a big future he wound up the only Ute with double figures with 21 points but his effort nearly covered the spread.

#5 Thursday night it’s the first of the Arizona schools visiting Haas Pavilion as the Arizona Wildcats (16-7) come calling the Wildcats are traditionally a bigger and successfully offensive team

Michael Duca does the Cal Bears podcasts on Thursday and Morris Phillips on Mondays at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cal Shut Down: Utah comes up with season-best defensive effort in 60-45 win over the Bears

By Morris Phillips

When your best player makes shots winning comes easier. When that best player also shuts down the opponent’s main guy, winning is almost assured.

It was for Utah on Timmy Allen on Saturday at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes leading scorer came up with 14 of his team-best 20 points down the stretch, as well as shutting down Cal’s Matt Bradley in Utah’s 60-45 home win.

“I was just more strong today,” said Allen. “Just played without stress and played stress free, truthfully.”

Bradley led Cal with 13 points, but missed eight of his 13 shots. The Bears shot 32 percent from the field and scored 52 points or fewer for the sixth time this season. Cal’s leading scorer was the only Bear to finish in double-digits, starters Paris Austin and Kareem South combined to miss 15 of their 18 shot attempts.

“They were the aggressors and we didn’t finish enough plays,” said coach Mark Fox. “You have to score when you’re on the road and we didn’t do that tonight.”

The Utes improved to 10-1 at home in a season in which they’ve beaten Kentucky, Washington, Nevada and Minnesota, but have struggled to string wins together. One certainty is their play against Cal and Stanford: the Utes completed the home sweep of the Bay Area schools for the fifth year in a row.

“I thought we had a good game plan for both of the Bay Area schools, and I think we’ve made some good strides in our pick-and-roll coverage,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Our bigs did a really good job. I thought our guards were really solid too.”

The Bears trailed by 11 at the half, and blew an opportunity to climb back in the game when the Utes missed eight of their first nine shots to start the second half. Instead, the Bears went cold, going scoreless for more than three minutes, and Utah seized control.

Cal’s 16 made baskets on just seven assists were both season lows for a Utah opponent.

The Bears return to Haas Pavilion on Thursday for a meeting with Arizona, then they’ll see Arizona State on Saturday. Both Arizona schools were home losers on Saturday with the Wildcats falling to UCLA, and the Sun Devils losing to USC.

 

 

 

 

 

Road Remains Rough: Cal suffers narrow loss at Colorado, falls to 0-9 away from home

By Morris Phillips

No. 24 Colorado didn’t like the way they played, but they were satisfied with how they finished in a 71-65 win at home on Thursday night.

Cal coach Mark Fox said he and his coaching staff would examine how they do things approaching road contests after dropping the first eight this season, but that didn’t change things at the CU Events Center. The Bears were tied at the half, and trailed by just two with 5:16 remaining, but fell victim to the Buffs late run.

“They sped the game up,” said Paris Austin, who had 15 points for the Bears.

“We found a way,” coach Tad Boyle said of his CU squad’s fifth consecutive win over Cal. “The sign of a somber locker room after a league win tells you that we have pretty high expectations of ourselves.”

For Cal, battling a ranked Pac-12 team in their environment in a game that was decided in the final minutes represented a sign of improvement. Of their nine road and neutral site losses, only a 64-60 defeat to Boston College at the Chase Center had been by single digits prior to this one. The Bears, coming off winning four of five at home, continue to improve, even if it doesn’t always show in the win column.

Matt Bradley led the Bears with 17 points, Andre Kelly had 12 on six of seven shooting. The Bears shot 63 percent from the floor in the first half–a season best–but couldn’t get keep the Buffs under wraps at the defensive end. In the final five minutes, Colorado was efficient and quick, scoring 19 of their 71-point total down the stretch.

Not familiar with the ascension of the Buffaloes? You’re not alone. Quietly, Boyle has fashioned a consistent contender in the Pac-12, and Thursday’s win matches the best 23-game start to a season in their program’s history, matching that of the 1968-69 Colorado team that won the Big 8. Sophomore Cliff Meely was Colorado’s star player that season, a power forward who would be named an All-American as a senior and a first round pick of the Rockets during the summer they moved from San Diego to Houston.

The Bears (10-12, 4-5) travel to Salt Lake City to face Utah on Saturday at 3pm.

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca: Improved Golden Bears get another test in Colorado on Thursday night

calbears.com photo: Cal prepares for their game against the Buffaloes in Colorado on Thursday night

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca:

#1 Cal (10-9) played a close game against the Oregon Ducks (18-4) on Thursday losing by five points 77-72 Cal gave it their all and could have very well won this game

#2 Cal was coming off a huge win against the Stanford Cardinal (16-4) and then played a very close game against a nationally ranked team like Oregon speaks to the improvement of the team in just a short time after taking a ten point loss in UCLA

#3 Cal also hosted a much improved Oregon State Beavers (13-9) team and beat the Beavers by two points 69-67 in a game where it’s a two point difference it reflects that it’s a all team effort as oppose to relying on one guy

#4 The Cal numbers are improved on offense the Bears had four players finish in double figures against OSU including leading scorer Matt Bradley with 25 points.

#5 The Bears head to Colorado (17-5) to face the Buffaloes on Thursday night the Buffaloes are a tough customer can Cal head coach Mark Fox and the Bears keep it going in this style of basketball

Michael Duca does the Cal Bears basketball podcasts each Thursday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Standing Firm: Big charge call in final seconds allows Cal to slip past OSU, 69-67

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–The youthful Cal Bears and their coaching staff didn’t know what to expect. After two, last place finishes in the Pac-12, a coaching change, and a roster with as many additions as departures, they knew they probally weren’t going to be great, and that they didn’t want to be last-place bad.

Whatever their destination, the Bears are starting to take control of the process, one game at a time.

“You just get addicted to the next game,” coach Mark Fox said after his Bears surprised Oregon State in the last game, making the winning plays late in a 69-67 victory at Haas Pavilion on Saturday.

Hardly on a last place trajectory, the Bears are finding ways to win (at home). Beating OSU evened Cal’s conference record at 4-4, good enough for a sixth-place tie with UCLA.

“To come out of the week with a couple victories for this group is progress,” Fox said. “But we’re just going to try to win this next one and see how many we can tally up.”

In winning four of seven–after losing six of seven–the Bears have improved dramatically at the defensive end while getting more varied contributions on the offensive end. Clearly an incremental process, all seven of Cal’s most recent victories are by seven points or less, the last three by 3, 2 and 2.

And what normally constitutes last minute heroics doesn’t apply at Cal: the Stanford game swung on a blocking foul and two made Paris Austin free throws. On Saturday, leading scorer Matt Bradley drew a charging call on Tres Tinkle with seven seconds remaining with the Beavers trying to grab the lead.

Looking for a critical basket or a momentum-changing dunk? There wasn’t one. Instead Cal turned a close game by limiting Oregon State to six points over the final 5:04. For the game, OSU shot 19 of 52, and missed 15 of their 20 3-point attempts.

For Cal, Bradley got it done by picking his spots, both on the floor and during junctures of the ballgame, scoring a team-best 23 points. Andre Kelly hurt OSU with his activity on the offensive glass, adding 14 points, six rebounds. Grant Anticevich contributed eight points and 11 rebounds.

Neither team created much separation as the game featured 11 ties and 13 lead changes. Tinkle spearheaded an 8-0 run for the Beavers to close the first half, but OSU didn’t sustain that surge with 32 percent shooting after the break.

Cal travels to No. 20 Colorado on Thursday looking to win their first true, road game after five losses.

 

Improved Bears take No. 11 Oregon to the wire in 75-72 loss

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Two weeks ago, a visit from a ranked opponent would have resulted in a lopsided loss for the Cal Bears. On Thursday night at Haas Pavilion, No. 11 Oregon got all they could handle from the improving Bears in a 75-72 win that had the Ducks sweating in the final minute. How’s that?

The Bears, for one of the only times all season, showed a varied, effective offense that had them even at halftime and leading 52-45 with 11 minutes remaining. At that point, Payton Pritchard, arguably the Pac-12’s best player, took over and led the Ducks to a big win that keeps them at the top of the conference standings with a 7-2 record.

“I was trying to be aggressive right away.” Pritchard said of mindset starting the second half of a tied game. “We made a run there and made something happen.”

Pritchard led the Ducks with 21 points, long-armed, defensive whiz Chris Duarte added 19 and Will Richardson contributed 15. For Cal, Matt Bradley got hot in the second half, scoring 20 of his game-best 25 points.

Early on the Bears got the best of what freshman Lars Theimann has offered thus far in Cal career. The 7’0″ center made all four of his shot attempts, scoring eight points, that gave the Bears’ attack some inside-out balance. From outside, Bradley, Grant Anticevich and Kareem South combined to make nine 3-pointers.

In a game ultimately decided by just three points, the Bears will remember their empty possessions that resulted in 14 turnovers, and their lack of bench contributions with 70 of their 72 points coming from the starters. But for a team again trying to avoid the basement in the Pac-12, the effort may have been their best so far, and a clear sign the embattled group is sticking together, and showing some improvement.

In the end, Pritchard with his ability to drive, shoot and make flawless decisions along with the Ducks’ trapping defenses made the difference in a surprisingly close game.

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca: Can Cal top off the week with a win over Oregon tonight?

calbears.com photo: Cal Bears preview photo with Kareem South (10) ready to take aim as Cal hosts #11 ranked Oregon Ducks at Haas Pavilion on Thursday night

On the Bears podcast with Michael:

#1 The Cal Bears (9-10) defeated the Stanford Cardinal (15-4) it was a game played at Haas Pavilion even though the Bears had the home floor the odds were stacked against Cal and they pulled it out 52-50.

#2 Did Cal head coach Mark Fox had to pull out all the stops against a team like Stanford strategy wise?

#3 Cal went on a 17-2 run against Stanford and not only played catch up ball but the team really caught fire and proved the mind is a powerful thing were driven and won the game against an incredibly good school.

#4 Paris Austin proved to be a big help for Cal leading with 15 points and scoring two crucial free throws that got Cal the victory over the Cardinal.

#5 It doesn’t get any easier for Cal as they host the Oregon Ducks (17-4) at Haas on tonight

Join Michael each Thursday for the Cal Bears podcasts at http://www.sportsradioservice.com