Sloppy Bears slip past Prairie View A&M 54-50, stay unbeaten

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–The Cal Bears committed more turnovers (22) than they scored points after halftime (19) on Monday against Prairie View A&M.

That won’t cut it on Thursday when the Bears step into Madison Square Garden and face Duke.

“I thought we were poorly coached today, I thought we played poorly, and two wrongs make a wrong,” coach Mark Fox admitted. “We were fortunate to escape with a win but we have to play better basketball than we played today.”

Definitely, a learning experience for the youthful Bears. But they didn’t get their lessons in a loss. Grant Anticevich hit a big 3-pointer with 2:40 remaining, and Matt Bradley scored half of his team-best 16 points in crunch time, and somehow the Bears held on, winning 54-50.

“Nothing was going our way offensively or defensively. But we stuck it out and ended up winning,” Bradley said. “We’re 4-0 right now– I’m happy to say that.”

The Panthers qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2018-19 and are the coach’s pick to repeat as SWAC champions this season. On Monday, they took the floor without Devonte Patterson, the presumptive SWAC Player of the Year, and still gave Cal fits.

“There were times we didn’t match their intensity, which was a problem. We should’ve grabbed more rebounds, but give credit to them– they played hard.”

The biggest difference between Cal’s first three wins, and the victory over Prairie View was at the offensive end. The Bears shot a cumulative 56 percent versus Pepperdine, UNLV and Cal Baptist. On Monday, against the physical Panthers, the Bears shot 39 percent and managed just eight assists on 17 made baskets. For long stretches, the ball didn’t move and the Bears settled for jump shots.

“Hopefully some days you can win because you make jump shots but that’s not the only thing that matters in the game and I felt like we had a little bit of an immature approach offensively and our decisions with the basketball,” Fox said. “We were not very good today.”

Down 52-50 in the final moments, Prairie View had a couple of chances to tie or take the lead but couldn’t convert. Chancellor Ellis missed a 3-pointer then with eight seconds remaining, Dejuan Madden was whistled for an offensive foul.

Anticevich had 13 points, six rebounds as the only Bear other than Bradley to score in double figures. Kuany Kuany, a slender 6’9″ freshman, made his Cal debut, but overall, the Cal bench did very little, as six reserves combined to miss 15 of their 18 shots.

Ellis and Faite Williams led the Panthers with 12 points apiece.

 

Anticevich’s the name, 3-point buckets the game in Cal’s 82-62 win over California Baptist

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, Calif. — An all-time high of 354 institutions are competing in Division I basketball this season, and California Baptist from Riverside is starting a second season at the college game’s highest level.

But let’s be honest: Nobody at Haas Pavilion knew much about the Lancers, who are competing in the Western Athletic Conference against the likes of Grand Canyon and UT Rio Grande Valley, before Friday night.

For that matter, they didn’t know much about Grant Anticevich, who had made just 11 3-pointers in his first two seasons as a Golden Bear.

Well, both Anticevich and the CBU Lancers have a little bit more notoriety now.

California Baptist earned a bit of respect by being tied at the half, and leading Cal briefly in the second half. Anticevich was noticeable much earlier, scoring 16 of his career-best 23 points in the first half. New coach Mark Fox’s clean slate appears to have provided Anticevich with an opportunity, and the 6’9″ junior is taking advantage.

“I didn’t judge any of these kids off the previous year,” said Fox, who has stated on a couple of occasions that he has 17 new players on his roster. “I haven’t looked at tape. I didn’t look at the stat sheet. I gave them all a fresh start and from day one we thought, ‘Grant’s a really good three-point shooter.’ So we built that into what we are doing because he has shot it well since we arrived, and obviously tonight he got hot.”

Anticevich was 5 for 5 from distance, keying the Bears 82-62 win that moves them to 3-0 for the first time since 2015. But he wasn’t the only hot shooter for Cal, the team shot 57 percent from the field and 54 percent from three. Matt Bradley contributed 16 points, and Kareem South 10.

Anticevich and Andre Kelly keyed Cal’s 17-0 run that put them up 68-48 with 9:36 remaining.

“I feel like offensively we changed and also our intensity,” Bradley said. “We picked it up a lot in the second half. We denied 3-point shots and we just manned up and guarded our man.”

CBU was led by Ferron Flavors Jr. with 11 points, Milan Acquaah had 10. Acquaah, the pre-season pick for WAC Player of the Year, and a transfer from Washington State missed 13 of his 16 shots from the field.

The Bears continue play in the 2K Empire Classic on Moday with Prairie View A&M visiting Haas Pavilion. The Bears then travel to Madison Square Garden for Thursday’s game against Duke.

Bouncy Bears: Cal gets the jump on UNLV down the stretch, wins 79-75 in overtime

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, Calif. — Down nine points with less than eight minutes remaining, the Cal Bears needed a few elements in their game on Tuesday against UNLV.

Composure. Togetherness. Defense.

“I said the first team that starts playing defense is going to win,” California coach Mark Fox said. “I didn’t think either team particularly was great defensively in the first half. But in the second half, both teams decided to start playing defense so I think what the difference in the game was, was the turnovers. In the second half, they had 12, we had five. I thought that was really what was the deciding factor. We just kept battling, we just kept playing hard and found a way to win.”

“I think we just picked it up,” said guard Kareem South, one of four Bears in double figures with 14 points. “When it was the moment of truth, we locked it in and got stops.”

Through 30 minutes, the meeting of Rebels and Bears couldn’t have been any more even. UNLV led by two at the half (40-38) and there were 20 lead changes in the game. The teams even appeared similar in dimensions: both teams relied heavily on their guards attacking the paint against smallish, front lines.

But the game turned in the final minutes for the home team. The Bears created offense from their defense, and rode a 16-2 run spanning the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime for a 79-75 victory. After consecutive 20-loss seasons, and a coaching change, Cal is 2-0.

Donnie Tillman led UNLV with 17 points, Elijah Mitrou-Long added 16, but the Rebels couldn’t maintain their 59 percent shooting from the first half. The turnovers and missed shots down the stretch may have partially been the product of fatigue and the Rebels’ lack of depth. Four of their five starters played more than 40 minutes, Mitrou-Long and reserve Nick Blair fouled out.

“In the second half, our defense kicked in but then we had too many turnovers,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We have talked a lot about it–for us to be successful we need to do those things night in and night out.”

Matt Bradley led Cal with 23 points after he scored 25 in the opener against Pepperdine. Joel Brown added 12, and Paris Austin 10 points as the Bears relied heavily on dribble penetration, shooting 21 for 36 inside the 3-point arc.

Juhwan Harris-Dyson made his season debut playing 20 minutes, contributing five points and two rebounds. His defense and veteran presence will be critical for a young team that has so little veteran experience.

The Bears next play California Baptist Friday night in the opener of the 2K Empire Classic, a series of games against scheduled opponents that will see Cal play four games in eight days, including a matchup with Duke in Madison Square Garden in New York on November 21.

Bears start Coach Fox off with an impressive 87-71 win over Pepperdine

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY — After a pair of last place finishes in the Pac-12, a coaching change, and a great deal of personnel upheaval, the Cal Bears looked like a breath of fresh air in dispatching Pepperdine 87-71 in their season opener.

Coach Mark Fox, how about that improvement from last year’s 8-23 nightmare?

“I don’t know what happened last year,” Fox said emphatically. “We won’t even look at it.”

If anything can be learned at this early stage about Fox, who coached previously at Nevada and Georgia, he’s exceedingly positive while being extremely demanding. So far, 17 players, none of them new to the program–or old–according to Fox, have bought in.

Simply, the Bears are an empty slate, neither doomed to their recent past or promised to be improved. So far, improvement appears to be the path based on their come-from-behind win against the Waves.

Matt Bradley scored 25 points, and Paris Austin came up with 14 points, three assists keying a 52-point second half that carried the Bears after they trailed Pepperdine 37-35 at the half.

Andre Kelly, the beneficiary of some nifty passes from Austin, and newcomer Kareem South were Cal’s two other double-digit scorers, coming up with 16 points and 14 points respectively.

The Bears trailed by as many as seven points in the first half, and were still behind 49-46 with 14:35 remaining when Pepperdine went scoreless for five minutes and Cal took control. Bradley and Austin each scored six points in a 17-0 run that put the Bears up 63-49 with 10:05 remaining. The Waves banked on their 3-point shooting and lost, missing 19 of their final 25 attempts from distance.

Bradley experienced foul trouble in the opening 20 minutes and sat for a long stretch. But the second half was all his. The sophomore finished 8 for 11 from the field and made 5 of his 7 attempts from distance.

“I said, `Now you’re not in foul trouble. You can go and be aggressive and just play like you’ve practiced,'” Fox said of his halftime directive to Bradley.  “And to his credit he did just that.”

“When I came back in the second half it was second nature,” Bradley said. “I wasn’t really thinking much, I was just playing and felt really good.”

If the Bears have a focal point offensively, it undoubtedly would be the burly Bradley. The 6’4″ guard has started his Cal career by making 55 of 113 3-point attempts. On Tuesday, Bradley matched his career-best with five made threes.

Austin came off the bench and repeatedly burned the Waves with his dribble penetration and ability to finish. Remarkably, Austin registered just three assists even as it seemed had much more with his composed approach and pinpoint passing.

Colbey Ross led the Waves with 19 points, seven assists, but 17 of those came before halftime. Sophomore Kessler Edwards paced Pepperdine in the second half, scoring 15 of his 18 points after the break.

The Bears appear to be a much deeper and more balanced team than they were in 2018-19 as nine players saw action Tuesday.  They also expect to get big contributions from forward Kuany Kuany and big guard Juhwan Harris-Dyson, neither of whom played against Pepperdine. Fox hinted that the pair could return from injury rather soon with the Bears next scheduled to host UNLV on November 12.

Not On Senior Day, You Don’t: ASU survives upset bid from Cal in 69-59 win

By Morris Phillips

With a squad as youthful as Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils, success on Senior Day is only attainable if all hands are on deck.

Arizona State had something less than that in a first half in which they shot 26 percent and trailed the winless Golden Bears by six.

But their response after halftime was immediate. A 28-10 run put Arizona State in control, on their way to a 69-59 win at Wells Fargo Arena.

“Our approach was better. Our aggression was better without fouling,” Hurley said. “It looked like we were putting together consecutive determined possessions.”

“We have a history of (poor starts), especially against teams that we should supposedly be beating,” said point guard Remy Martin. “But on senior night with De’Quon and Zylan and the managers, we weren’t going to let that happen.”

The Sun Devils’ two seniors, De’Quon Lake and Zylan Cheatham, did their part, combining for 16 points and 16 rebounds. But ASU usually gets its offense from younger sources like Rob Edwards who came up with 14 of his 16 points after the break. Freshman Luguentz Dort led the Sun Devils with 22 points.

Arizona State improved to 19-8, 10-5, and moved into sole possession of second place in the Pac-12 by sweeping their final, two home games against the Bay Area schools. They play their final three games heading into the conference tournament on the road.

Cal gained a measure of respect by being ready to play from the start and executing a defensive gameplan that gave ASU fits early. But the Bears shot just 33 percent after the break, and never got anything easy with just two fast break points, and eight second-chance points.

The Bears lost for the 16th consecutive time, and now only have three opportunities to avoid a winless, Pac-12 conference season. The Bears host first place Washington on Thursday, and close out with Washington State at home and Stanford on the road.

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.

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 

Balanced Bears good early and dominating late in 78-66 win over Santa Clara

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY — After an eight-win season, the Cal Bears needed to get better, and they did that, with Coach Wyking Jones welcoming freshmen Matt Bradley and Andre Kelly.

But an influx in talent doesn’t always mesh, and new mouths to feed means old mouths can occasionally go hungry. So with Santa Clara breathing down Cal’s collective necks in the final minutes of Monday’s 78-66 victory for the Bears, Jones witnessed a selfless act from one of his leading, returning scorers, Darius McNeill.

“I told him to check in to the game for Matt, and Matt scored three buckets in a row, and he said, ‘Coach, just keep him in the game.  Just keep him in the game.’ And for me, that’s a step in the right direction as far as him being able to sacrifice his own personal stats, minutes, whatever you want to call it, and say ‘You know what coach, it’s about the team, it’s not about me.’ So that’s what we’ve been preaching, and that’s what culture is all about.”

With Bradley scoring 13 of his team-best 15 points in the final 6:33 of the ballgame, the Bears pulled away, winning for the second time this season. Five Bears finished double figures, led by Bradley and Juhwan Harris-Dyson, who put up his 15 points on seven of eight shooting.

“It comes in those guys trusting each other and having each other’s back,” Jones said. “Just being able to withstand them cutting it to one and still being able to make plays and make a run and get stops when we needed it.”

The Bears played like strangers in Shanghai, losing their season opener in China to Yale by 17 points, and compiling no assists in the first 20 minutes while shooting a frigid 20 percent. After a bounce back win over Hampton, and the cancellation of the Detroit Mercy game due to the Butte County fires, Cal was awful defensively in losses to St. John’s and Temple in Brooklyn. But on Monday, the defense was credible, and the offense had diversity and purpose.

Cal jumped out to a 14-0 lead, holding the Broncos scoreless for nearly eight minutes. Nine steals at the break, and 13 for the game, showed that the Cal defensive intensity was present, as was Santa Clara’s propensity to cough it up. But with Kelly and point guard Paris Austin spearheading the impressive start, and Bradley playing the role of the closer, it mattered little that holdovers McNeill and Justice Sueing missed 10 of their combined 15 shots, while McNeill was limited by foul trouble.

Harris-Dyson came off the bench and shut down Santa Clara’s Tahj Eaddy, while being the beneficiary of some nice setups from his teammates on the offensive end. Dyson hadn’t contributed as much offensively since his February breakout against Stanford with 13 points.

The Bears led by 12 at the half, only to see Santa Clara shoot 56 percent after the break and cut the Cal lead to 53-52 with 7:03 remaining. But the Broncos collapsed at that point, allowing the Bears to get to the rim repeatedly in a 19-6 run that pushed their lead to 14 with 1:33 remaining.

“Cal did a great job of taking us out of what we wanted to do,” said SCU coach Herb Sendek. “But, perhaps no stat was more significant for us than our 22 turnovers.”

Cal (2-3) visits St. Mary’s on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s renewal of the East Bay rivalry at Haas Pavilion. The Bears didn’t fare well in that one, losing to a veteran Gaels team that would be invited to the NIT. This one could be more competitive as both schools welcome a bunch of new faces to the matchup.