Bears Squander Another Opportunity, Fall to UCLA 75-67 in Overtime

Photo credit: @CalMBBall

By: Michael Duca

BERKELEY, Calif. — The second time was not the charm.

Cal opened its Pac-12 season against a UCLA team in disarray, with Interim Coach Murry Bartow coaching his first game after a mid-season change. The Bruins broke form and blew out Cal at Pauley. Wednesday night, the Bears got their shot at the Bruins at home, immediately after what should have been a soul-crushing loss to Utah Sunday afternoon.

It was not meant to be.

One of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the nation (62%), the UCLA Bruins rode 9-of-10 shooting from the charity stripe to a 75-67 overtime victory at Haas Pavilion. Led by Kris Wilkes 27 points, the Bruins, who did not lead until 11:04 remained in regulation, caught fire late from behind the arc to steal a sloppy game from Cal, which is still seeking its first conference win (0-12, 5-18). UCLA started the game shooting 3-of-16 from behind the arc, but finished hitting 7 of their final 16 treys, including back-to-back shots from the left corner in a 30-second span in the final 90 seconds of regulation. Those three-balls pulled the Bruins from a 59-55 hole inside 2:00.

Cal, which held a nine point advantage at the half, fell to 3-3 in games with a lead at the intermission. The Bruins played a sloppy game, with 13 turnovers in the first half (and only 4 assists). Those turnovers led to a 15-4 lead in points off turns for Cal, but they just could not hold it in the second half once the Bruins started to hit from outside.

Wilkes 16 points after intermission overshadowed a nice evening for Darius McNeil, who flashed his speed time after time in racking up a team-high 18 points, including four treys, but McNeil also committed a pair of thoroughly unnecessary fouls that gave the Bruins life.  The taller Bruins owned the boards, with a 50-36 edge that included 17 offensive rebounds and 13 second-chance points.

Down 9 with 14:00 left in regulation, David Singleton hit three consecutive three-balls for the Bruins to close the game to 43-42 at 12:18.

Matt Bradley had a rollercoaster night, missing his first eight shots but draining a three to send the game to overtime.

Cal’s frustration will only increase when they watch film – they have suffered mightily in conference play from poor defense, but they held UCLA (averaging 80 points/game) to under 40% shooting on the night, but could barely exceed hitting one-third of their own shots (23-of-68).

Justice Sueing had a solid game with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, adding a team-leading 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Conor Vanover is beginning to show flashes of adapting to the speed of the college game, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, plus 6 rebounds and a pair of blocks (plus countless other shots altered), and a pair of plays where he created held balls that gave Cal possession.

It remains to be seen whether Cal will break through and avoid a winless conference season, but it is clear from watching this team that they have not given up on the season – they competed hard for 45 minutes, but just didn’t have the offense to put the game away in regulation.

Next up for Cal are the USC Trojans, Saturday afternoon at 5 pm.

Forks Down, Forks Up: ASU starts slow, but finishes fast in 80-66 road win over Cal

By Morris Phillips

The ASU Sun Devils came to Berkeley Wednesday night trying to forge an upward trajectory, something they could hardly claim two weeks ago when they beat Kansas, then lost to Princeton in an inexplicable eight-day span.

But 14 minutes in, the Bears’ active 2-3 zone was causing Arizona State problems, and they trailed Cal by 14. Yeah, the Bears have struggled, but double-digit leads can help a young ballclub gain wisdom in a hurry.

So how did ASU coach Bobby Hurley respond?

He turned to sophomore guard Remy Martin in hopes of giving his squad a boost. Martin fashioned his contribution in a mere, eight seconds.

The ASU sparkplug–a reserve who routinely plays starter’s minutes–sliced Cal’s lead to 11 with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Martin would go on to score or assist on every ASU basket in the six minutes leading to the half.

That run got Arizona State within 35-33 at the break. Then the Sun Devils took over in the second half, and they handled the Bears, 80-66, the 10th consecutive loss for the hosts in Pac-12 conference play.

To the Bears’ and coach Wyking Jones’ credit, their strategic wrinkle–playing a packed-in zone to limit penetration and put the onus on ASU’s shooters–worked. ASU opened the game by missing 11 of their first 12 shots. They just couldn’t sustain it once Martin started cooking.

“What changed was Remy Martin started hitting shots,” Jones admitted. “We can’t keep the zone as tight, and now we have to go out there and guard him. We have to guard the guy at the top of the key, and it opens up the high post, and then they started hurting us.”

Martin’s career-best scoring effort had symmetry: 12 points, 4 assists in the Sun Devils’ big run leading up to halftime, and another 12 during the period that ASU extended their 47-44 lead to 77-65 with 2:16 remaining.

As a freshman last season on an ASU team that was senior-dominated, Martin showed out at Haas Pavilion with 13 points, three assists in 18 minutes off the bench in the Sun Devils 81-73 win. This season, Martin still comes off the bench despite being more experienced than his teammates who start. But the speedy playmaker hasn’t complained. Instead he’s embraced the role and perfected it.

With ASU in the midst their first half run, Martin whipped a pass to a cutting Zylan Cheatham for a dunk, a pass thrown with so much force, the point guard came out of his shoe. The video replay shows the unaffected Martin putting his shoe back on at the moment Cheatham finishes the play at the rim.

“I’m here to help the team win whether I’m starting or coming off the bench,” Martin said. “I’m the same guy and I’ll do whatever is best for the team.”

What was best, was also fast and decisive, as the Bears found out Wednesday.  In a rare, statistical seismic shift, the shooting percentages for both teams changed dramatically after halftime. Cal shot 43.3 percent in the first half, 31.8 percent in the second, while ASU skewed more dramatically.  The Sun Devils were 39.4 percent before the break, and 57.7 percent after, and get this.. they went the final eight minutes of the game without being discredited with a missed shot. All that pace and execution to end it, after all the missed shots in the initial minutes of the game.

Matt Bradley was inserted into the starting lineup for second straight game, and scored in double figures for the third straight game. The freshman guard led Cal with 19 points, Darius McNeill added 16. Bradley also summed up the tale of two halves.

“The second half, they started knocking down shots. Once they spread us out, they got the bigs going down low. They played a lot harder and a lot more aggressively,” Bradley said.

The Bears host the Arizona Wildcats Saturday at 7:30 pm.

Rousted by Redhawks: Cal closes non-conference schedule with home loss to Seattle, 82-73

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, Calif. — Saturday was not the Pac-12’s finest hour, and the Cal Bears’ performance was partly responsible for what ranks among the darkest days for the Conference of Champions in men’s basketball.

The Bears (5-7) fell behind by as many as 18 points in the first half, only to rally, but ultimately lose to Seattle, 82-73 at Haas Pavilion. The loss concluded Cal’s non-conference schedule without providing much belief that they can right the ship with Pac-12 play next up beginning Thursday at UCLA.

Coach Wyking Jones surely didn’t get any assurances from his team that they’ll be engaged come Thursday, not after they led 2-0 Saturday, only to fall behind 21-4 with 12:11 remaining before halftime.

“I don’t know why, but I have to do a better job of making sure that we’re ready to play,” Jones conceded. “I could see it in shootaround. The energy level wasn’t there for whatever reason, but we can’t dig ourselves a hole. Typically we start games well, but we weren’t ready to play today. We fought back, and had some energy and spurts, but you can’t dig yourself an 18-point hole and expect to win.”

The Bears got hurt in the paint, primarily by Myles Carter who post a career-best 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead Seattle. Seattle’s leading scorer Morgan Means added 24, which included a school-record 16 for 16 performance from the free throw line, eight of those in the final two minutes of the ballgame.

Matej Kavas, Seattle’s second leading scorer who has 36 3-pointers this season, missed the game with ankle injury suffered in the team’s most recent practice. But even that setback seemed to bolster the Redhawks as they intensified their attack inside where they enjoyed a 38-30 edge on the glass and scored 19 second chance points.

“We showed a lot of grit and hung in there for all 40 minutes,” said Seattle coach Jim Hayworth. “Morgan did a great job of leading and was spectacular from the free-throw line. And (Cal) had no answer for Myles who had a great game.”

The Bears were led by point guard Paris Austin with 20 points, 17 of those after halftime. Darius McNeill added 19, and Justice Sueing added 15.

Cal was one of five Pac-12 schools to lose non-conference games on Saturday, including the league’s only ranked team, No. 17 Arizona State which fell at home to Princeton, 67-66. UCLA was shocked by Liberty, losing 73-58 at Pauley Pavilion, a loss that Steve Alford said was the most disappointing in his 28 years of coaching.

Utah lost at home to No. 5 Nevada, and Washington State lost at home to Santa Clara. The league’s 38-36 record in December is the worst won-loss record of any major conference (including the Big East) in this month in the last 20 years, a fact revealed on ESPN.com’s front page, much to the Pac-12’s dismay.

 

Cal prevails over San Jose State to win 88-80

Photo credit: @CalMBBall

By: Michael Duca

BERKELEY, Calif. — In a Christmas-break clash between two local rebuilding programs, the California Golden Bears and San Jose State Spartans met at Haas Pavilion Friday evening in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd. Cal prevailed, 88-80. Darius McNeil (season-high 22 points) and Andre Kelly (21 points and 10 rebounds, both career highs) led Cal, while Oumar Barry had a career-high 18 points, one of four Spartans in double figures.

The Spartans, behind five players in double figures, were coming off a loss to Stanford where they gave the Cardinal all they wanted, and more, before succumbing 78-73.  Cal was coming off a 95-73 drubbing at the hands of Fresno State.

While both teams opened the game shooting poorly (a combined 2-for-11 in the first three minutes), the Golden Bears (4-6) rode runs of 5-0 and 7-0 to double up the Spartans (3-7), 14-7, in the first seven minutes of play.  It would be misleading to attribute the low scoring to defensive aggressiveness, and each team committed just one personal foul in the game’s first 10 minutes of play.

After the first media timeout, at 16:00, the Bears found the range, hitting 4 of their next 5 shots including 3-of-9 shooting from long distance to extended their lead from 5-4 to 17-9 at the second media timeout.

When the third media timeout rolled around, at 7:27, Cal, trying to solve the Spartans’ 3-2 zone, was riding a cold streak of nearly 5 minutes without a field goal, and more than eight minutes with just a single layup. It got so bad, usually reliable Matt Bradley came up with a steal in the Spartan paint and ran the length of the floor, only to miss the cripple layup. A minute later, San Jose State tied the game at 19 apiece.

The teams traded scores until intermission, which came with the Spartans holding a 32-30 advantage, despite having a less-than-stellar 4/10 assist/turnover ratio.  San Jose State out-shot Cal 48% to 35% and outrebounded them 18-14. Andre Kelly led the Golden Bears with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, and six rebounds. Post man Oumar Barry led San Jose State, also with 12 points (on 4-of-6 shooting) and six rebounds, en route to a career scoring high of 18.

Cal came out of the intermission smoking, shooting 70% in the first six minutes and opening a 14-point lead behind 9 points from Darius McNeil.

“They were packing in,” McNeil said, “they wanted us to shoot it (in the first half), we just started hitting them after halftime.”

“I talked to him at halftime,” noted Coach Jones, “and told him he needed to shoot the ball more.”

The Golden Bears were more aggressive to the hoop in a 26-11 run to start the half, and as a result were in the bonus with nearly 13 minutes left in the game.

“Coach had us start to press and we got some turnovers and opened a lead,” said McNeil.

The pesky Spartans refused to go away, however, cutting the lead back to 8 with 6:30 to play. A Matt Bradley block of a Michael Steadman layup at 5:00 produced the Bears’ third defensive stop in four possessions and led to a 12-point cushion with 4:46 to play, 77-65. The Spartans weren’t done yet, however. An 11-0 run in the game’s final three minutes saw the Golden Bears clinging to a 4-point lead inside a minute, after a 2:40 scoring drought.

San Jose State head coach Jean Prioleau said, “I think we have a very competitive group.  We are resilient, and in the beginning stages of building a program in the South Bay Area. I think we shot very well tonight, maybe the best in school history. We had a lot of live ball turnovers, and that’s very bad for us.  We switched up our man and zone, and they hit some threes, but we lost because of live ball turnovers.”

The Spartans committed 15 turnovers, while the Golden Bears had a season-low 5.

Paris Austin, who had a career-high 11 assists and zero turnovers, hit a pair of free throws with 36 seconds left, and a foul on Steadman on the ensuing possession all but sealed the deal, giving Austin another pair of free throws with a 6-point lead.  Austin netted both to give the Bears their final cushion. The 88 points are the most surrendered by San Jose State this season.

“It felt like this was a complete team effort,” said a smiling Coach Jones, “which is what you want. Paris Austin stands out, because we have been talking about sharing the ball, and 11 assists with no turnovers does that. He didn’t care about his points, but they took care of themselves.”

The double-double for Kelly was the first of his career.

“I just try to shoot a high percentage from the field,” Kelly said, “and I tried to make plays tonight. To be honest, I don’t look at the stat sheet, I didn’t know how good my night was.”

Coach Jones knew how good it was. “I would love to see him do that every night,” Jones said.

Next up for Cal is a December 29 game at Haas vs. the Seattle University Redhawks. Tipoff is at 5 pm.

Cal Bears basketball podcast with Michael Duca: Freshmen Kelly and Bradley get the ball more often in helping Cal beat Santa Clara last Monday

photo from sfgate.com: Santa Clara forward Hendrik Jardersten (3) dunks the ball against Cal during the second half of Monday night’s game at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley 

On the Cal Bears basketball podcast with Miguel:

#1 A big welcome to Cal (2-3) freshmen Matt Bradley and Andre Kelly. Can they get better with Bradley and Kelly in the lineup?

#2 In the Bears’ 78-66 victory at Haas Pavilion Monday night, Darius McNeill told Bears head coach Wyking Jones to let him stay in the game. Turns out there was a method to the madness as McNeil was feeding Bradley and Kelly, who helped score some important points. 

#3 It was Bradley’s 13 points of the Bears 15 points in the final 6:33 of the game that pulled them away from the Santa Clara Broncos. 

#4 Jones said that it was the players trust in each other and passing the ball that made a difference in this one.

#5 The Bears’ tipoff against the St. Mary’s Gales (2-5) Saturday night in Moraga with the Gales on a slide. Can the Bears take advantage of the Gales with home court advantage?

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

Home is where the heart is: Cal Bears easily handle the Hampton Pirates 80-66

Photo credit: @Pac12Network

By: Ana Kieu

The California Golden Bears defended Haas Pavilion after a 80-66 win over the Hampton Pirates on Tuesday night. In case you didn’t know, Hampton men’s basketball is based in Hampton, Virginia (go look it up if you don’t believe me!).

Anyhow, it was a good win for the Bears, who showed the Cal students, alumni and fans that home is where the heart is. The Bears’ starting lineup consisted of Darius McNeill, Paris Austin, Justice Sueing, Matt Bradley and Andre Kelly.

The Bears pounced on the Pirates from the get-go. Paris Austin opened the scoring with the first basket of the game and Justice Sueing followed up by hitting two from the line. The Bears trailed by only one point at the time, but they overcame adversity and went on a 10-0 run–thanks to scores from Austin, McNeill and Connor Vanover–midway through the first half. The Bears brought a far-fetched 48-31 lead to the locker room at the end of the first half.

The Bears slightly cooled off in the second half. The Pirates outscored the Bears 35-32, but the game was pretty much out of reach for the visiting team.

At a media break, Hampton closed the lead 54-44, while Cal was unable to score in 3:06 (minus the fact that Kelly led the Bears with four points at the time. The Bears picked up the pace, which led to four Bears in double figures with under six minutes on the scoreboard. The Bears then went on a 7-0 run in the last 2:25 to close out the game on a high note. Also, note that Austin hit a three-pointer to extend the Bears’ lead back to double digits.

The Bears got a 80-66 win over the Pirates in their home opener. Austin led the Bears with 20 points and six assists in the victory. As a result, Austin earned the Opus Bank #12Best moment tonight.

Notes
The Bears’ nonconference schedule includes more than 18,000 miles of travel.

The bulk of Cal’s nonconference travel comes in a 20-day span between roundtrip travel to China (November 2 to 10) and Brooklyn, N.Y. (November 16 to 21). Other stops away from Haas Pavilion include Fresno, Calif. and a trip through the Caldecott Tunnel to face Saint Mary’s.

No other team in the nation will travel more during their nonconference slate than Cal.

Up Next
The Bears return home to host the Detroit Titans on Thursday, November 15 at 7:00 pm PT on PACN.

Slow start, turnovers lead to USC rout of Cal in Pac-12 home opener 80-62

Jonescalbears.com photo: Cal Bears head coach Wyking Jones during recent press conference

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY–The pained look on Coach Wyking Jones’ face said it all. The question regarding repeated slow starts for Jones’ California Golden Bears, especially at Haas Pavilion, was fair given that Cal scored just eight points in the first 10 minutes of Thursday’s disappointing 80-62 loss to USC.

And Jones’ response? As honest and revealing as any Division I basketball coach ever wants to be or has to be when admitting his team was outclassed.

“It’s frustrating, but our guys aren’t trying to do that,” Jones said. “They are trying to do the right thing. They are young, it’s a process, and we have to just focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. These guys who are freshman are going to be sophomores next year, and then juniors and then seniors, and really good. You have to focus on what the light at the end of the tunnel is as opposed to what’s going on right now.”

What’s going on for Cal right now is a youth-laden club without a forceful, ball handling leader is taking its lumps.  USC, a pre-season Top 25 pick that’s dealing with a recruiting scandal and its own shortcomings, may have been the last opponent the Bears wanted to see on the occasion of their Pac-12 home opener. Those lumps Cal’s taking were hand delivered by the Trojans on Thursday.

USC’s zone look with arms and hands everywhere befuddled the Bears to the tune 22 turnovers juxtaposed against just 13 assists on 23 made baskets.  Of those 23 baskets, only eight came in the first half when Cal fell behind by 26 points (38-12 with 1:54 remaining).  The deficit grew to 30 points briefly in the second half as Cal’s issues offensively morphed into defensive indifference.  While the final score was more palatable, this marked the third time this season Cal has lost by 18 or more points at home this season.

If the light at the end of the tunnel that Coach Jones spoke of was to be interpreted literally, it would have been one lit candle at the western most juncture of BART’s Transbay Tube on Thursday.

“We have another game on Saturday against UCLA so we have to move past this and regather tomorrow morning, and prepare for UCLA,” said freshman Justice Sueing, who led the Bears with 15 points.

In fairness to the Bears, the Trojans are the last team a struggling outfit wants to see. Just ask USC’s most recent opponent Washington State.  With the Cougars methodically trying to regain their footing against the Trojans on New Years’ Eve after a first half that was as poor as Cal’s, WSU cut USC’s lead to just eight points. But on the next six possessions, Washington State committed five turnovers and saw their deficit balloon to 18 points in less than the three minutes that elapsed on the game clock.

Against Cal, USC’s zone caused the Bears to be extremely tentative to the point that guards Don Coleman and Darius McNeill became non-factors in the first 25 minutes of the game.  Cal’s normally high scoring guards combined to miss 13 of their 16 shots while committing six turnovers.  While McNeill found a way to extend his impressive streak of hitting at least one three-pointer in 14 of his 15 games as a collegian, his penetration into the paint was almost non-existent.

Marcus Lee had an impressive start offensively with a follow dunk and a couple of other buckets from point blank range, but five turnovers and foul trouble kept the Kentucky transfer from making much of a difference as the game progressed.

The Trojans were led by Nick Rakocevic with 19 points. Bennie Boatwright added 15 points, and Jordan Usher had 14 off the bench for USC.

Chimezie Metu was suspended for the first 20 minutes for his actions against Washington State in which cameras caught the 6’10” junior jabbing an opponent in the groin. Metu played 11 minutes in the second half, in which his epic dunk over Lee immediately triggered a SportsCenter alert all the way across the country at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

The Bears return to the hardwood on Saturday when UCLA visits Haas Pavilion at 3:30pm.

Cal Bears Basketball Podcast with Morris Phillips: Bears hoping that come back game at Stanford can set the tone for USC Thursday

Photo credit: @CalMBBall

On the Cal Bears basketball podcast with Morris:

1 The Bears down to Stanford by 17 points in the first half and came back before the end of the half, figuring out Stanford’s defense.

2 Cal head coach Wyking Jones settled the team down and said they ended up dribbling the ball a whole lot better.

3 Stanford’s Maples Pavilion has always been a tough place for the Bears to battle and Saturday was almost no different, but Jones got the players believing in themselves and they turned it around.

4 After a 25 point loss to Portland State and previous loses to Central Arkansas, Cal State Northridge and Charminade they needed a win like this as a confidence booster.

5 Cal now hosts USC on Thursday and UCLA on Saturday, which are two great challenges on the home schedule for the Golden Bears.

Morris covers Cal basketball and does the weekly podcasts at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cal Bears fall to Portland State Vikings 106-81 before Christmas

Photo: @CalMBBall

By Alexandra Evans

BERKELEY—The California Golden Bears (6-6) faced their last out-of-conference opponent, the Portland State Vikings (9-3), who defeated them 106-81 at Haas Pavilion on Thursday evening. 

The first half started off slow for the Golden Bears effective immediately. Within the first two minutes, the team was down by nine points. At the halfway point, they were down 13. With six minutes left, McNeill, Deschon Winston, and Marcus Lee brought the Bears’ score to 24. At that point, PSU had 39 points, but Cal was no longer trailing by more than half their score. That did not last long, as PSU brought their lead up to double Cal’s score (48-24) with 3:40 remaining. At the end of the first 20 minutes, PSU led Cal 56-37. There were few moments where Cal trailed by fewer than 20 points, and no Bears players made any three-pointers in the first half.

Cal was evidently determined to pick things up as the second half commenced, but PSU was just unstoppable. Six minutes in, the Vikings brought their score up by 16 points, compared to the Bears’ eight-point increase, for a score of 72-45. PSU held their 20+ point lead over Cal through the entire second half, even knocking on a 30-point lead here and there. With three and a half minutes left, Bryce Canda made a three-pointer to bring PSU’s score to an even 100, while Cal still trailed with 74 points. This was the first time in nearly seven years (since February 10, 2011 against the University of Washington) that the Bears allowed 100 points in a single game.

Don Coleman led the Bears in points tonight with 19, the seventh time he has exceeded the team this season, and the 12th time in 13 games, he has hit double digits in points. Winston tallied 10 points, a career-peak, and Nick Hamilton made five rebounds, which was a career-peak for him.

Next, the Cal Bears will face their conference rival, the Stanford Cardinal, in Palo Alto on Saturday, December 30. Stay tuned for coverage from me that night!

Morris Phillips on the NCAA

by Morris Phillips

BERKELEY–The Cal Bears are getting confidence with these non conference games wins like the one Saturday against the Fresno State Bull Dogs 67-56 in an 11 point victory and it’s an opportunity to gain confidence with a young basketball team which is great. The Bears have got new players that haven’t had expereince at the division one level and that’s why home games or pre conference games are so critical so that will help them.

The Bears didn’t see anybody of size this week and obviously when the conference games start they will be seeing bigger teams and taller players and the Bears will have to contend with those teams. At that point Cal will be the smaller team of the group. Especially they played Nevada and Fresno State on Saturday at Haas Pavilion and they saw a pair of undersize teams and that won’t be the case in the Pac 12.

The one thing that’s going on right now for the first time since 2006 the number one team in the country is from the Pac 12 Arizona who won against Michigan to secure that number one spot and the Pac 12 looks to be as balanced and competitive as it has been in years top to bottom and their already getting raves for being one of the strong leagues in the country.

Once again Cal is not in a conference schedule there is nothing compared to what they will see once the conference season starts. Just to run through the team, Arizona is number one, Oregon is ranked, Washington State looks to be much improved, Washington as like Cal a younger team trying to find it’s way.

Stanford is kind of interesting they just lost their point guard Aaron Bright for the season the Pac 12 is going to be a bear and every week it’s going to be tough ball games that are going to be very closely contested. Cal is going to be right there in the mix. They are younger and less experienced than some of the teams that they will face.

Morris Phillips covers Cal basketball and is filling in for Dr.Michelle Richardson this week for the NCAA commentary