Bradley’s Banker In Overtime: Cal defeats Washington with dramatic 3-pointer, 61-58

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Winning ugly has a new signature: the dagger three off the bank in the final seconds of overtime.

Cal’s Matt Bradley pulled off the feat in the Bears’ 61-58 win over Washington, and while he didn’t gush over his game-winning basket, coach Mark Fox did.

“It was a thing of beauty,” Fox said. “As hard as he’s worked and as much as he’s bought in, he deserved to have that thing go down.”

Bradley’s basket with seven seconds remaining brought an end to what had to be characterized as an ugly ballgame with both teams failing miserably at the offensive end.

Through the conclusion of regulation, the Huskies and Bears had just 98 combined points, 33 missed 3-point shots, with both teams shooting less than 37 percent from the floor. And Cal managed got to the line for a minuscule, four free throw attempts.

The Huskies had an excuse of sorts in the academic disqualification of point guard Quade Green. In Green’s place, 6’6″ Jamal Bey was promoted to the starting lineup with Oakland’s Elijah Hardy in reserve. When Coach Mike Hopkins looked at the halftime stats and saw his club had seven made baskets and five of those were from three, Hopkins sat Bey and inserted Hardy.

But things didn’t improve much: Washington followed their 20-point first half with 34 percent shooting in the second, including 11 misses on 13 3-point attempts.

Cal was faring much better but primarily due to a spirited defensive effort that neutralized Isaiah Stewart, Washington’s leading scorer, with double teams in the post. Cal’s Andre Kelly deserved most of the credit for stopping Stewart by helping and recovering with great zeal.

But Cal’s 28-20 halftime lead dissipated with nine misses in a ten-shot stretch midway through the second half that allowed the Huskies to climb even with 6:39 remaining. But that would be effectively as close as Washington would come to stealing one from behind. Despite their edge on the glass and some, representative defensive moments of their own, UW simply missed too many shots.

“We had to fight from behind, but I still felt when we went up two we could have made some plays, but we didn’t,” Hopkins said. “We’ve got to finish better. We have to finish games.”

In the final seconds of regulation, Nahziah Carter missed a trio of shots, as did Bradley and Grant Anticevich for Cal. Any of those shots would have forged a final minute lead, but none connected, and the game went to overtime.

In the extra session, Bey’s 3-pointer drew Washington even at 52 with 4:08 remaining. The significance? It would be the Huskies’ final made shot of the game, and their alternative plan to subsist on free throws and defensive rebounds would fall short.

That set the table for Bradley in the final seconds, and as implored by Fox in the previous timeout, the sophomore dribbled up to the top of the key and launched from straight away. The outstretched arm of 6’9″ Jaden Daniels caused Bradley to a quicker, higher release but the shot dropped off the bank setting off a celebration with seconds remaining.

The Bears (8-8, 2-1) have sought improvement in a lot of areas since their 4-0 start devolved into a December of losses, and finally that improvement has surfaced at the defensive end. Beating a talented Huskies team and holding them to a dreadful shooting percentage clearly ranks as Cal’s best win of the season to date.

“We’ve gotten a lot better focusing on defense, just knowing that if our shots aren’t falling we’ll win with defense,” Bradley said. “That kind of proved tonight.”

The Bears travel to Los Angeles this week for meetings with USC on Thursday and UCLA on Sunday afternoon.

 

 

Cal Comes Around: Pac-12 home opening win over WSU, 73-66, ends frustrating stretch for the Bears

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–For the Cal Bears Thursday night everything went wrong, including the lead up. That included a week of practice that coach Mark Fox said was poor, a couple of players got injured, an uneven shootaround, then the start of the game against Washington State, in which the Bears found themselves doubled up, and trailing by 13.

Talk about making your opponent feel comfortable: in the game’s first 11 1/2 minutes, eight Cougars played, eight Cougars scored, and none took or needed more than three shots to get on the board. WSU led 26-13.

But as quickly as things went wrong, they went right: the Bears finished the half on a 25-5 run and never looked back. Cal’s first win in a month, on the critical occasion of the Pac-12 home opener, 73-66 over WSU, seemingly came out of nowhere.

“It took us a while to calm down, and also it took a while to get our defense to the level it needed to be,” Fox said. “And once we were able to stabilize we clawed out of the hole and played fairly stable the rest of the game.”

Matt Bradley led Cal with a career-best 26 points and 10 rebounds, including a three with less than a minute remaining, that increased Cal’s 69-66 lead to six points. Bradley had a different view of the week’s practices than did Fox, but no one could dispute that Cal’s offensive leader had struggled. Coming in Bradley had slumped, shooting just 38 percent from the field since December 1, and only 25 percent from three.

But against WSU, Bradley started early and finished the Cougars late, making 10 of 14 shots, and coming up with some smart decisions when faced with an array of double teams.

“These last couple of games have been pretty rough for me and my team,” Bradley said. “We’ve been trying to figure out here and there but we had a great week of practice.  The only thing, we said, ‘stay competitive, stay fighting hard, and stay tough.'”

“It’s not all on him,” Fox said of Bradley. “But you love the fact that the guy who’s arguably one of your best players is taking that much responsibility.”

Paris Austin contributed a season-best 17 points for the Bears, and Grant Anticevich added 12. Cal played without Juhwan Harris-Dyson and Jacobi Gordon due to injuries.

Washington State was led by C.J. Elleby with 22 points, and Noah Williams who had 16. Elleby is the son of Bill Elleby, who was a scoring guard for the Bears in the 90’s. The Cougars flamed out after their fast start, turning the ball over 22 times, and allowing 32 points in the paint. The Bears shot 55 percent in the first half, and 51 percent for the game.

Washington State, coming off an impressive, come-from-behind, home win over UCLA faces Stanford on Saturday. The Bears host Washington, who were surprised by Stanford’s closing run in Thursday’s loss.

 

 

No Shot: Bears’ offense disappears in lopsided Pac-12 opening loss at Stanford

By Morris Phillips

STANFORD, CA–The Stanford Cardinal aren’t physically imposing, blessed with great depth, foot speed or rebounding acumen, but they consistently carry themselves as a formidable defensive team.

So far–with non-conference play complete and the Pac-12 schedule in front of them–their portrayal of themselves holds weight. Stanford ranks 13th (out of 350) nationally, allowing just 58.8 points per game, while forcing opponents into 39 percent shooting from the floor.

On Thursday night at Maples Pavilion against rival Cal, Stanford posted even better numbers in their conference-opening 68-52 drubbing of the visiting Bears. Beyond the points allowed and Cal’s 30 percent shooting for the game, Stanford forced 18 turnovers leaving Cal literally in shambles.

“Our team has had an epidemic of turnovers throughout the year,” said coach Mark Fox. “It wasn’t just tonight, and that’s taking nothing away from Stanford, which has a very good defense. We have to get it fixed.”

Cal started fast, seeing results from their pressure defenses that propelled them to an early 7-2 lead. But as quickly as things came together, they fell apart, as Stanford responded with an 11-0 run and never trailed again.

Daejon Davis led Stanford with 20 points, Tyrell Terry added 14, and Bryce Wills 10, as the Cardinal carried through on their intention to attack the Bears in the paint. An early timeout seemed to get the Cardinal refocused.

“We were literally jacking 3’s and not being aggressive going to the basket,” Davis said.

For the second straight game Cal held the edge on the glass, outrebounding Stanford 41-30, but it mattered little once the Bears’ shots weren’t falling. Leading scorers Matt Bradley and Kareem South fared the worst, missing 18 of their combined 24 shots.

“That’s tough for our team to overcome because we just don’t have a lot of other firepower around (Bradley and South),” Fox said.

The Bears have lost 8 of 10 following their 4-0 start, and have yet to win away from Haas Pavilion. What’s worse was the Bears’ paltry point total. They’ve now matched their season-low in points (52) not once, but twice, also in losses to Santa Clara and Duke.

Cal hosts their Pac-12 home opener on Thursday against Washington State with Washington visiting Berkeley on Saturday.

 

 

 

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca: Bears-Cardinal to open Pac 12 regular season tonight

calbears.com photo: The Cal Bears Grant Anticevich (15) show taking ball down court will join the Golden Bears tonight at Stanford to face the Cardinal at Maples Pavilion in NCAA Basketball action

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca:

#1 The Cal Bears (6-7) have lost three straight games they go into Stanford to play the Cardinal (11-2) tonight how do see the Bears faring tonight?

#2 Matt Bradley continues to lead the Bears in scoring he finished with 15 points against Harvard on Sun Dec 29th will coach Mark Fox go to Bradley in the lead scoring role.

#3 Kareem South came in second in scoring with 13 points in his last game against Harvard what are some things that coach Fox will look from South tonight against Stanford.

#4 The Cardinal are coming off a tough loss to the Kansas Jayhawks last Sunday they were 11-1 before that game the Cardinal seem to be a force to reckon with

#5 It’s the opener of the Pac 12 season and the Bears at Stanford could actually be a rivalry type game how much does coach Fox look forward to the Pac 12 schedule?

Listen to the Cal Bears basketball podcasts each Thursday with Michael Duca and on Mondays with Morris Phillips

Hibernate? No, More Like Dominate: Bears end season on high note, beat Illini 35-20 in Redbox Bowl

By Morris Phillips

SANTA CLARA, CA–The Illini moved the ball, but the Bears moved the needle, making the majority of the big plays in their 35-20 Redbox Bowl victory over Illinois on Monday at Levi’s Stadium.

The Bears captured their first Bowl victory since the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl win over Air Force, and won eight games in a season for the first time in the last four seasons. Most importantly, they seized momentum heading into what should be a promising 2020 season.

“We talked in the locker room about the 2020 team,” coach Justin Wilcox said. “The expectations should continue to rise. There’s no reason why we can’t expect more of ourselves.”

Cal could return as many as 18 starters in 2020, 10 of those on offense. Chase Garbers previewed the upcoming season with an outstanding performance against Illinois, completing 21 of 31 for 272 yards and four scores, and a rushing touchdown as well. The Bears went as Garbers did in 2019, and the month-long break leading up to Monday’s contest allowed the redshirt sophomore to be healthy and effective, as the Cal offense kept the pressure on Illinois throughout.

Garbers was named the game’s offensive MVP, another honor for the quarterback who scored the winning touchdown in the final minute that broke Cal’s lengthy losing streak to Stanford.

“We knew there would be a lot of opportunities out there,” Garbers said. “The receivers did a great job running the right routes and catching the ball. I just had to put the ball where it’s supposed to be.”

The key play of the game may have come with 25 seconds remaining before halftime, and Cal clinging to a 14-10 lead. On the previous, third down play, Garbers was stuffed at the three-yard line, setting up a fourth down decision.

The Bears elected to go for it, passing on a field goal attempt that could have established a seven-point, halftime lead. Instead, Garbers found Christopher Brown Jr. on a swing pass that put Cal up 11.

The vaunted Cal defense had struggled to that point, allowing scores on Illinois’ first two possessions. But the defense stiffened from that point, allowing just one score–a fourth quarter, Reggie Corbin touchdown run–in the second half with Cal ahead comfortably at that point, 35-13.

All-American linebacker Evan Weaver finished the game with nine tackles, falling short in his bid to break the NCAA record for tackles in a season. Weaver finished with 182, short of Texas Tech’s Lawrence Flugence’s total of 193 established in 2002.

The Bears were outgained in total yards 450-395, but they came up with the big plays, like Zeandae Johnson’s sack and strip of quarterback Brandon Peters that ended Illinois’ initial possession of the second half.  Brown contributed Cal’s lengthiest gainer, a 54-yard run in the first half, but Cal’s scoring plays were all executed in the red zone. Garbers threw touchdown passes covering just 2, 3, 4 and 6 yards.

“Our offensive staff did a great job putting a game plan together and trying to dial it up,” said Wilcox, giving a respectful nod to outgoing offensive coordinator, Beau Baldwin and offensive line coach, Steve Greatwood, who announced his retirement in the days leading up to the game. Baldwin previously was announced as the new head coach at Cal Poly.

The Bears open the 2020 season in Las Vegas against UNLV on August 29 in Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Raiders and the Rebels.

 

Winter Break Tutorial: Harvard schools Cal on the finer defensive points at Haas, wins 71-63

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Harvard visited Haas Pavilion on Sunday. It wasn’t supposed to be the educational experience for the Bears it turned out to be.

Chris Lewis scored 19 points, Christian Juzang had 14 as the Crimson compensated for the absence of leading scorer Bryce Aiken with a strong defensive effort in beating the Cal Bears, 71-63.

Harvard held Cal to 37 percent shooting in the first half, 35 percent for the game and never trailed. The visitors from the Ivy League led by 15 at one point in the second half and were never really threatened. Cal’s one statistical advantage–a 13-3 edge on the offensive glass–was merely a mirage. Often Cal missed shots, rebounded and missed again.

Tommy Amaker, the former Duke star and Harvard’s head coach, loved what he saw from his team defensively.

“Our defense is our calling card for our program,” Amaker said. “We’ve built our program around our defense. Our guys give great effort. We play a lot of players so we should be pretty fresh out there. I would love for us to be able to do that on one end and be a little more efficient on the other end. That’s the goal. But certainly was pleased with the team defensive effort that we gave.”

If losing as a Power 5 to an Ivy League opponent wasn’t disconcerting enough, the Crimson did it in a very un-Ivy League manner. They blocked shots. Harvard turned back 11 Cal shots, seven by their starting posts, 6’8″ Mason Forbes and the 6’9″ Lewis.

Aiken, averaging a team-leading 16.7 ppg, was in a walking boot before the game. Amaker didn’t divulge many details regarding his injury, but he was a surprise scratch. Cal was unaware of Aiken’s unavailability until the opening tap.

The Bears have lost seven of nine after a 4-0 start, and now look to their Pac-12 opener at Stanford on Thursday with the conference’s only losing record (6-7) at this juncture. Eight of the 12 members have lost either twice or three times, including Stanford (11-2). Cal is trying to avoid a third, consecutive season in the Pac-12’s basement.

Defense has been a major issue with the Bears, and it was again Sunday. Harvard shot 57 percent before halftime to jump to 34-24 lead at the break. The offense was absence as mentioned, especially from leading scorer Matt Bradley, who missed 10 of his 14 shots, including all six of 3-point attempts.

“We don’t have a ton of guys who are consistent scorers and so the focus of the defense is going to be geared towards certainly Matt. And he’s going to have to really work to move without the ball, and learn to be more efficient,” head coach Mark Fox explained.

“He’s learning how to play the role of a lead role player, and he’s having to do that on the fly. And there’s a lot that comes with that.”

Bradley led Cal with 15 points. Kareem South added 13, and Grant Anticevich had 12.

Harvard cut Cal off at the point of attack as well. Starting point guard Paris Austin and his backup Joel Brown were a combined 2 of 12 shooting, and compiled just five assists.

Cal opens Pac-12 play with three of their first five on the road with a trip to Los Angeles following a homestand against the Washington schools. Given the Bears’ desire to jump out of the conference basement, their conference home opener against the WSU Cougars is an opportunity not to be missed.

Why? When you’re struggling, you don’t run across too many, beatable opponents. That’s Cal’s reality at the moment.

 

Red Box Bowl/Cal Bears podcast with Morris Phillips: Bears feel an advantage playing in Bay Area; Illinois no push over have beaten two big schools

photo from sf49ers.com: Red Box Bowl at Levis Stadium will host the Illinois Illini and the Cal Bears on Mon Dec 30th

On the Red Box Bowl/Cal Bears podcast with Morris:

#1 At the Red Box Bowl presser on Friday Cal head coach Justin Wilcox and the players were in a great mood

#2 How good does it get for Cal having the Bowl game set in the Bay Area against the Illinois Illini did Wilcox or any of the players address having to play the game in the Bay Area.

#3 In talking with Cal quarterback Chase Garbers quite a year certainly wants to end his season with a win at the Red Box Bowl

#4 Last season the Bears played at the Cheez It Bowl in a game they lost to TCU 10-7 it was kind of a sleeper but being the in Bay Area and the Illini being a good team this could be a shoot out

#5 Coach Wilcox says turnovers can’t be the rule of the day as the Illini took advantage using seven turnovers to upset Wisconsin and win at Michigan State in their two marquee wins.

Morris is a Cal Bears beat writer and does the Bears weekly podcasts each Monday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cal’s Comfort Zone: Bears at home in the Redbox Bowl in more ways than one

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Last year the Cal Bears played awful and were the brunt of jokes. This year, they seem to have the hang of this bowl season thing. Team captain Jake Curhan showed as much, by setting ground rules for the Redbox Bowl press conference at the outset.

“Before we begin real quick: Nikko, Cam and I are really excited to join our teammates on Alcatraz, so respectfully we’re going to be pretty efficient with our answers, and we would appreciate the same from you guys. Thanks.”

A year ago in Phoenix at the Cheez-It Bowl, the Bears were one-half of a turnover fest, throwing five interceptions in a 10-7 overtime loss to TCU that left the Chase Field crowd and the television audience shaking their collective heads. The Horned Frogs kicked in four interceptions of their own in a game that no one wanted to win–in regulation–leaving the decision to an overtime period that brought out social media trolls in droves.

This bowl season, the Bears are in their backyard, playing good football coming in, and looking healthy for Monday’s kickoff at Levi’s Stadium against Big Ten opponent Illinois. A matchup of Cal’s vaunted defense against a team that lost it last two while scoring just 10 points in each game seems favorable.

Coach Justin Wilcox knows turnovers can’t litter the landscape at Levi’s. Illinois (6-6) thrives on them, using seven turnovers to upset Wisconsin and win at Michigan State in their two marquee wins.

“You go into a game playing with great ball security. So we want to play with really, good habits,” Wilcox said. “Possessions will be a premium in this game.”

Wilcox lifted Garbers after throwing his third interception against TCU. That put the ball in Chase Forrest’s hands, and he threw two more picks, including the most damaging one in overtime. Forrest was thrust into the fire, seeing his first, significant time in his five-year Berkeley career. This season, Garbers is in control, throwing just three picks in 184 pass attempts. More importantly, Garbers has rounded into a winner, posting a 6-0 record this year and 12-2 in his career when he starts and finishes the game.

Besides a healthy Garbers, the Bears (7-5) have regained their health and depth on the offensive line, and they figure to cover for their one significant, personnel omission, injured safety Ashtyn Davis, by utilizing their secondary depth, the team’s most impressive unit.

Wilcox said Elijah Hicks will see time at safety against Illinois, with the possibility that corner Cameron Bynum will also see time there as well.

Illinois received good news on the injury front when quarterback Brandon Peters was cleared for action after suffering a concussion against Iowa, which forced the Michigan transfer to miss the Illini’s season-ending loss to Northwestern. Of course, Peters will have his hands full dealing with Cal’s All-American linebacker Evan Weaver and fellow linebacker Cameron Goode, who is coming off two of the most impressive outings of his Cal career.

“His body’s changed, as you probably noticed he gained 25-30 pounds. I think that helped him to be to sustain the season and be able to withstand the rigors of a full season. He’s worked hard at that. And I still think Cam’s best football is front of him. He’s a talented kid,” Wilcox said of Goode.

 

Cal Bears podcast with Morris Phillips: Bears can’t keep up with Boston College; Will Illini-Bears match up be a close one for Red Box Bowl?;

photo from bearinsider.com: Matt Bradley (20) of the Cal Bears takes a shot against Boston College Eagles on Saturday at Chase Center in San Francisco at the Al Attles Challenge

On the Cal Bears podcast with Morris:

#1 On Saturday at Chase Center was the game against Boston College (8-5) a game that the Cal Bears (6-6) could have won in a 64-60 loss.

#2 The Bears had a chance to hold off the Eagles after leading in the first half the game slipped in the second half when BC outscored Cal 38-31.

#3 Playing at Chase Center was there a different feel a different vibe playing in a neutral site game for the Bears that might have played in their game.

# 4 Matt Bradley led the Bears with 21 points with nine rebounds and two assists he’s been big for Cal but they could have used more help on Saturday.

#5 The Bears now have lost four of their last five games and host Harvard next Sunday at Haas Pavilion

#6 Football: The Illinois Illini and Cal Bears on paper look like evenly matched teams you will have a chance to talk with both teams on Friday 27th at a presser in talking with Cal quarterback Chase Garber how much is riding on this game this Saturday. The Red Box Bowl at Levi Stadium is on Mon Dec 30th.

Morris Phillips does the Cal Bears podcasts each Monday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Bears blow an opportunity for a brighter Christmas, lose to Boston College, 64-60 in the final minutes

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Travel-weary Boston College afforded the Cal Bears a fast start. The Bears in turn kept the door open, and allowed the Eagles a chance to creep back into the contest.

In the end, it wasn’t an even swap.

BC made the adjustments in their offensive attack, got nastier on the glass, and pulled out a much-needed 64-60 win over Cal at the Chase Center on Saturday. The meeting of struggling Power 5 conference teams went to the visitors from the East Coast and they couldn’t have been happier.

“In the second half, we played smarter,” Boston College coach Jim Christian said.

The Bears have dropped six of eight after a 4-0 start to the season. Christian and his Eagles won their fourth straight after losing five of six. Both teams craved a win, but Boston College kept the mistakes to a minimum down the stretch.

“I thought we were just settling for threes,” Christian said. “We were taking the first three available to start the game. We hit a couple early, which sometimes is a bad thing. In the second half we played really smart.”

Cal led by 12 early, then they went scoreless for the final seven minutes plus of the half, and saw their lead sliced to three at the break. They seemed to take control again leading 48-37 with 11:43 remaining. But their points in the paint, and transition opportunities slowed, and BC quietly creeped back in.

“You can’t play 34 or 36 minutes,” Coach Mark Fox admitted. “You have to play a great segment of quality minutes, and tonight we didn’t do that.”

Fox cited six missed free throws in the opening 20 minutes as a major factor in the loss. Those misses kept Cal from extending their double-digit lead, according to Fox, and that factored heavily into BC’s initial comeback.

Neither team accomplished anything of note from distance. Both teams missed eight of nine 3-point attempts before the half. Cal controlled the paint, getting strong, offensive games from Andre Kelly and Lars Thiemann. The 7’0″ center Thiemann enjoyed his best game in a Cal uniform eight points, nine rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. But Cal’s turnover count mounted (11 of their 16 turnovers came after halftime) and their shot selection deteriorated.

“I should have made sure we finished this game out–as captain and one of our leaders. That didn’t happen tonight. Obviously, I’m frustrated with myself,” said Matt Bradley, who led the Bears 21 points, but missed six of his seven attempts from distance.

The Bears now turn their attention towards their final non-conference contest against Harvard on December 29. Cal is trying to avoid a third, consecutive last place finish in the Pac-12, and they’ve now become the first conference school to lose six times this season.

Meanwhile, the conference continues to trend upward despite the top three programs–Arizona, Washington and Oregon–all losing to highly-regarded Gonzaga. While Cal has six losses, seven other Pac-12 schools have lost just once or twice, including Stanford, who won the opening contest of the Al Attles Classic against San Diego 62-59. The Cardinal are 11-1, their best start to a season in a decade.

CHRISTIAN’S ROUGH WEEK: BC coach Jim Christian hobbled up and down his team’s sideline on crutches with a pained look on his face, the aftermath of ankle microfracture surgery he had on Monday in Boston.

Christian conceded the cross-country flight to San Francisco was painful. He anticipated the flight back also will be agonizing.

The former Cornell coach retained his sense of humor however when explaining what led to the surgery.

“I injured my ankle in a dunk contest,” he said.