Practice So You Can Preach: UCLA shows off new, high-octane look in 98-83 blitz of Cal

By Morris Phillips

The latest meeting of Bears and Bruins at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday afternoon gained its origins in practice. That in accordance with the UCLA players, the Cal non-starters and both head coaches.

The familiar, starting group for the Cal Bears was an ominous omission from the philosophy, and that storyline goes a long way in explaining UCLA’s 98-83 win in which they shot 53 percent from the floor, posted a season-high in points, and methodically ran away from the Bears after halftime.

Coach Wyking Jones elected to bench his entire starting lineup in attempt to shake things up and spur his Bears to avoid a tenth, consecutive road loss in Pac-12 conference play. The reasoning, whether brutally spot-on or partially contrived had its roots in how the Bears have been preparing and practicing.

“Guys think that their starting positions are something that is given to them,” Jones explained. “I wanted to do something different. The guys that started have been working hard and giving us great things in practice, and we decided to go with that lineup.”

The shakeup actually involved just three players: guard Darius McNeill and the frontcourt tandem of Andre Kelly and Justice Sueing. Starting point guard Paris Austin was a late scratch after he was injured in practice on Friday. And swingman Juwan Harris-Dyson, most frequently used as a reserve, started Thursday and Saturday.

Meanwhile, UCLA practiced twice a day and visited the weight room daily, all a convenience (if you will) afforded the Bruins because they’re currently on winter break and aren’t attending classes. Interim coach Murry Bartow cooked up the scheme as his introduction as Steve Alford’s replacement, as well as the precursor to the Bruins playing faster, and maximizing their edges in athleticism and depth.

“Now we’re working as hard as we possibly can, which we weren’t doing before,” UCLA freshman Jules Bernard admitted.

Cal’s disjointed lineup and UCLA’s renewed commitment led to a predictable result as the Bruins became the eighth (of 14) Bears’ opponent to shoot at least 51 percent from the field, and the seventh to win as a result. The Bears did a whole lot of good too, getting big efforts from McNeill and Sueing, who each sat briefly only to play the entirety of the remainder of the game.

The Bears came up big in the passing lanes, registering 17 steals and adding four blocked shots. But that was partially negated by 18 Cal turnovers.

But the fast UCLA pace irritated the Bears, especially at the end of both halves when the Bears flatlined and allowed the Bruins to race to a bigger lead. Six Bruins scored in double figures and the 95 points were a season-high for UCLA, 48 hours after they posted 92 points on Stanford.

“The ball is moving and everybody touches the ball, we all get better. That’s what we want as a team,” said David Singleton, who contributed 14 points off the bench. “We don’t want to look good individually because anybody can do that. We want to look good as a unit and as a team.”

The Bears return home Wednesday for a meeting with Arizona State, before tackling Arizona on Saturday.

SOPHOMORE BRYCE TURNER, 19, PASSES AWAY IN LOS ANGELES HOSPITAL: Cal football player Bryce Turner, who played in one game this season, died Saturday, the school announced.

Turner suffered an undisclosed medical event during a workout on December 30 near his Southern California home.

“Bryce was a young man with a bright future and a valued member of our football team and the Cal family. His life was taken far too soon, and he will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bryce’s family, friends, teammates and coaches during this difficult time, and we will do all that we can to support each other, his family, our students and the entire Cal community through the grieving process,” said Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton.

 

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.

 

Holiday Heart-Stopper: Austin’s game-winner carries Bears past Cal Poly, 67-66

By Morris Phillips

When you win, everybody feels great.

But when it requires a last-second, game-winner to avoid a distasteful measure of embarrassment, almost nobody feels great immediately, and some don’t feel settled for as many as 48 hours.

Paris Austin’s free-throw line jump shot with three seconds remaining delivered the first feeling without erasing the second, in the Cal Bears’ 67-66 win over Cal Poly.

“We are a really good shooting team and shots didn’t fall tonight,” coach Wyking Jones said. “I am very happy with my team, my young team finding a way to get a win. At the end of the day, that’s what’s most important. I see them growing, I don’t know if we win that game last year. Happy that Paris hit the shot, it gives him a lot of confidence. He’s been doing everything that we’ve asked of him.”

The Mustangs of San Luis Obispo and the Big West had done little of note in eight games coming in, but they mustered their biggest effort to date at Haas Pavilion on Saturday night.

After seeing Cal wipe out a second-half deficit with a 10-0 run, the Mustangs hitched their fortunes to Donovan Fields, who scored 26 points and put Cal Poly up 66-65 with 16 seconds remaining.

At that point, the Bears were experiencing a star-crossed, second half in which they shot 61 percent from the field, but saw their 57-52 lead wiped out by a Cal Poly 7-0 run that concluded with 3:22 remaining and the Mustangs up 62-60.

But somehow Cal would survive by subsisting on two made baskets over the final five minutes of the game, both from Austin in the final minute. Not the most satisfying way to beat an opponent picked seventh (of nine) in the Big West, but that conclusion played smaller once Austin confidently delivered the conclusion.

“I crossed (Crowe) over, he bit on the move and I pulled up and made the shot,” Austin said. “It felt good. I knew right away.”

The small guys, Austin and Fields, provided the game’s most focused play, as the Oakland native scored all 10 of his points after halftime. Fields, Cal Poly’s 5’10” point guard, led all scorers with 19 of his 26 points after the break.

Connor Vanover again started at center for the Bears, and scored seven points in the game’s initial minutes. But the seven-footer wouldn’t score again, and then departed early in the second half with a bloody nose and dizziness suffered in a battle for a loose ball.

Grant Anticevich, the effective frontcourt reserve in the win over San Diego State, missed both of his shot attempts in 18 minutes of floor time. Justice Sueing (15), Darius McNeill (10) and Matt Bradley (11) joined Austin in Cal’s balanced scoring.

The Bears travel to Fresno State on Wednesday to face the Bulldogs of the Mountain West. Game time at 7:00 pm PT.

USF shoots past Cal, 79-60, beats Bears for the first time since 1997

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Photo of USF’s Frankie Ferrari courtesy of Eric Taylor/1st String Sports

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY — Losses of this magnitude don’t disappear from the consciousness easily. Normal losses linger, and this one was far from normal.

After the Dons’ 79-60 win at Haas Pavilion, the Cal Bears find themselves at the crossroads. At 2-6, they’ve had too many lopsided results, with Wednesday’s loss at home arguably their worst showing. The Dons led for 35 of the 40 minutes, and by as much as 29 before a late rally by the Bears in the game’s final minutes.

Haas Pavilion never warmed up, the crowd never got involved with the 10,000 seat building barely half full. And Coach Wyking Jones looked sullen postgame, claiming his team lacked competitiveness.

“We got beat by a veteran team that wanted it more than us,” Jones recounted. “It’s indicative of 14 offensive rebounds. They had more of a fight and Frankie [Ferrari] is a great point guard and did a great job of running the floor and leading the team. We are young and they are an experienced team and I saw that they [USF] wanted it more. I saw toughness.”

Under Jones, the Bears have lost 30 of their 40 games to date. The loss to USF was Cal’s fourth by double-digits at home to a non-conference opponent. Can Cal–with challenging non-conference opponents San Diego State and Fresno State to come, followed by Pac-12 competition–pull it together?

Of course, but more and more, it appears it will require a complete turn of fortunes. The first step: keeping a team together that’s having difficulties grasping and maintaining confidence.

“When you don’t see the ball go through the rim, the urgency to score builds. We start to panic a bit and that’s when you see silly fouls, not boxing out and losing focus,” Jones said. “We had some good looks that we would normally knock down, it just compounded on the defensive end and guys got more anxious to get a stop.”

Given, the Bears lack of size and physicality, offensive improvement will be easier to attain  than will defensive cohesion. But the Bears assist-to-turnover ratio must improve with the team having 82 turnovers and only 70 assists after 12 of each in Wednesday.

The Bears botched their final possession of the opening half, failing to get off a shot. Prior to that, a pass rolled through freshman Andre Kelly’s legs than out of bounds, another sailed over Justice Sueing’s head and ricocheted off the USF bench.

Meanwhile, USF looked confident, and built on their season start, at 8-1, their best in two decades. Moreover, the Dons showed little jet lag from a weekend in Ireland, where they narrowly suffered their first defeat, 85-81 to No. 21 Buffalo.

“I was curious to see how we were going to come out and start the game, and where our energy was going to be. We were coming back to play against a Pac-12 team,” said Charles Mindlend who paced the Dons with 17 points. “I was really happy with how we played.”

Center Jimbo Lull added 14 points, and sharpshooter Jordan Ratinho added 12 on four of nine shooting from three. The Dons enjoyed a 36-22 advantage with points in the paint.

Cal got 17 from Kelly, and 16 points from Darius McNeill. Last year’s leading scorer Sueing finished with four points. The sophmore forward has missed 44 of 68 shots taken this season.

Top reserve Juhwan Harris-Dyson played just two minutes before a previously diagnosed hand injury flared up.

The Bears welcome San Diego State to Haas Pavilion on Saturday for a 7:30 pm tipoff.

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 

Plenty Of Room To Grow: Cal Bears look inexperienced in 76-59 loss to Yale in China

By Morris Phillips

Truthfully, the 2018-19 Cal Bears basketball team is less experienced than the previous version that featured seven newcomers and landed in the Pac-12 basement a year ago.

You didn’t need a close-up observation to conclude that. Nor did most get one. The Bears opened their season with a ragged loss to Yale, 76-59 in Shanghai, China on Saturday afternoon, which was shown live in the U.S. on Friday night.

One statline immediately jumped off the page for Cal: they shot 20 percent from the field in the first half, registering just one assist.

“(Yale) found a very good rhythm in sharing the ball and running their plays all the way through. We have to do a better job of that,” coach Wyking Jones said. “We have to trust each other. We have to continue to trust each other more on the offensive end.”

The Bears led briefly, 9-8 with 10:24 remaining in the first half before the Bulldogs put the game away with a 15-0 run that came with leading scorer, Miye Oni, on the bench with two fouls. While Yale patiently ran their sets seeking favorable matchups to drive or shoot, the Bears failed to set each other up, instead settling for tough shots.

Cal started returning sophomores Justice Sueing and Darius McNeill, junior transfer point guard Paris Austin along with freshmen Matt Bradley and Andre Kelly. Missing was the experience, size and shot blocking ability provided by graduated seniors Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh. With only two returning starters and Juwan Harris-Dyson unavailable due to a hand injury, Cal had few options stylistically.

Meanwhile, Yale, picked to finish third in the Ivy League, had Oni, more experience, and the continuity provided by coach James Jones heading the Bulldogs for the 20th, consecutive season.

“We did a good job defensively, getting stops, and rebounding. And then we were able to get in a good rhythm on offense,” said Jones, the Ivy League’s longest tenured coach.

Oni, limited to just 17 minutes on the floor due to fouls, still put up 16 points with three made 3-pointers. The 6’6″ junior guard shared high scoring honors for Yale with reserve Azar Swain.

Austin led Cal with 18 points, but managed just two assists. Leading returning scorer Sueing finished with 9, missing 11 of his 14 shot attempts.

NBA Hall of Fame inductee Yao Ming and Joseph Tsai, Yale graduate and Alibaba co-founder, sat together courtside at the annual Pac-12 international showcase held at the Baoshan Sports Center. The game concluded a week of touring and goodwill for players from both schools.

Pac-12 champ Arizona gets all they can handle from the Bears in the regular season finale

UA_Harris_Dyson
Photo courtesy of Al Sermeno/KLC Fotos

By Morris Phillips

The California Golden Bears found themselves at college basketball’s epicenter for the regular season finale, and they played their role as unwanted guests to the hilt for 35 minutes.

Doubling down on arguably their best half of basketball all season, the Bears kept the pressure on Arizona in the second half in front of a sold out crowd at the McKale Center. But with the game tied 53-53 with 5:49 remaining and Cal controlling the tempo and the home crowd growing increasingly nervous, the Bears went cold.

Arizona finished the game with a 13-1 run to capture the Pac-12 regular season championship outright, winning 66-54.

So what happened to the Bears, seemingly having a positive experience in an otherwise awful season, in those final moments?

“We turned it over and it didn’t feel like we got a really good look the last couple possessions, so that was kind of the difference in the game,” coach Wyking Jones said.

In the final minutes, Don Coleman missed a trio of 3-point attempts, Marcus Lee missed two free throws, and two other starters, Juwahn Harris-Dyson and Darius McNeill also missed shots. For Cal, only a made Don Coleman with 14 seconds remaining kept them from the embarrassment of going scoreless for the remainder of the game.

What could have been an encouraging regular season ending morphed into another in a long line of scoring droughts, which have dashed the team’s hopes in several other ballgames, leaving Jones only to talk of his team’s attitude in tough circumstances.

“They followed the game plan, played with toughness and that’s all we ask of them,” Jones said.

The Bears finished the regular season 2-16 in Pac-12 play and will open the conference tournament against fifth-seeded Stanford on Wednesday at 2:30pm. The winner advances to a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday against fourth-seeded UCLA.

 

 

 

Sun Devils too slick, too polished in rout of Cal in Tempe

ASU_Coleman
Photo courtesy of Al Sermeno/KLC Fotos

By Morris Phillips

What qualifies as offensive execution in Tempe doesn’t closely resemble what offensive execution looks like in Berkeley.

Not even close.

The Sun Devils routed Cal, 84-53 while entertaining their home crowd with slick passing and emphatic dunks throughout. ASU took what could have been a very tense evening for the NCAA tournament hopeful Sun Devils and transformed it into a basketball carnival.

“We started the game loose and making plays,” said freewheeling, point guard Remy Martin. “That’s what happens when we play Sun Devil basketball.”

Arizona State scored 19 of the final 29 points before halftime to break open a close game and establish a double-digit lead at the break. The lead grew to 18 just minutes into the second half, part of ASU’s torrid 56 percent shooting after halftime that turned the game into a rout.

While the Sun Devils managed to get whatever shot they wanted, the Bears struggled to establish anything offensively. Cal missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts before halftime and eight more after the break. Cal’s 0 for 18 shooting from deep marked the second time the Bears have gone an entire game without a made three this season. Poor passing and lack of meaningful penetration doomed the Cal attack, which amassed just six assists while totaling 17 turnovers.

“I felt like everything we did was perimeter based,” coach Wyking Jones said. “The times we did get into the lane, it just didn’t feel like we were able to capitalize.”

Don Coleman led the Bears with 16 points but missed 12 of his 19 shots. Justice Sueing had 13 points, but he also struggled to make shots. Coleman and Sueing both missed all five of their 3-point attempts.

The loss dropped the Bears to 8-22, 2-15 marking the first time in the program’s 111-year history a California team has lost 22 times in a season. The Bears have lost six straight, and 14 of their last 15.

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Washington outclasses Cal late in the Bears’ home season-finale at Haas Pavilion

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Photo courtesy of Al Sermeno/KLC Fotos

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Cal’s last line of defense featuring former walk-on Cole Welle and seldom-used reserve Roman Davis received a near immediate assessment of their abilities courtesy of Washington’s Naz Carter on Saturday in the heat of a close game between the visiting Huskies and the Bears.

Hint: Carter did not issue a ringing endorsement.

Carter’s vicious dunk over Welle with 14:13 remaining marked the conclusion of the competitive contest between Cal and NCAA hopeful Washington, and the commencement of a rout, as the Huskies pulled away emphatically for a 68-51 victory. Again, Cal’s uneven roster absent of frontcourt reserves, a true point guard, and ballhandlers was as responsible for the result as was the Huskies’ high-flying dunk artists.

“In the second half, I thought foul trouble completely took away our flow,” Cal coach Wyking Jones explained. “I had some lineups out there today that I thought I would never have to play but did because of foul trouble. Ultimately, it was foul trouble along with 50-50 balls and loose balls. We had just as much opportunity to get them as they did, but they beat us to a lot of 50-50 balls. At the end of the day, we lost to a very good basketball team.”

Jones was presented near impossible choices when both his shot blocking post players, Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh picked up their fourth fouls early in the second half. With the possibility of losing either to fouls so early in a close game unpalatable, Jones elected to sit both. But that simply unleashed the Huskies, a team of drivers and slashers always on the hunt for point blank scoring opportunities. Carter’s wind up dunk came first, increasing UW’s lead to four, 47-43.

Noah Dickerson’s dunk came a minute later while Cal was in a drought at their end that would see them score just six points in the 13 minutes following Lee’s foul trouble departure with 16:19 remaining. When Don Coleman broke that string with a pair of made free throws with 3:11 remaining, the Bears trailed by 13.

How could Cal go from competing to not scoring so dramatically?

“Once Marcus and King got into foul trouble then I felt like their defensive focus was on Darius (McNeill), Don and Justice (Sueing),” Jones said. “The two guys who could hurt us inside are out of the game so they could focus on making sure the perimeter was tight, take away the driving lines and get over ball screens. Half of our attack was gone at that point, so they were able to focus in on the other guys.”

The Bears fell to 8-21, 2-14 with the loss, tying the record for most Cal losses in a season with 21, which had happened only once (1979) in the 111-year history of the program. The Bears haven’t finished last in the conference since 1980, but that appears to be a certainty barring a pair of major upsets in Arizona next weekend.

Whew!: Mistake-prone Stanford escapes with a narrow, four-point win at Haas Pavilion against Cal

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Photo courtesy of Ariel Nava/University of California Athletics

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–The effort and competitiveness were present for Cal on Sunday afternoon.  But without the made shots and the attention to detail defensively, a landmark sweep of rival Stanford will have to wait for another season.

Stanford kept Cal scoreless for more than two minutes after the game was tied for the last time at 67 with 4:31 remaining, and held on to beat the Bears at Haas Pavilion, 77-73. The loss allowed the Cardinal to avoid a rare sweep of the season series between the Bay rivals, one that has occured just twice in the last 25 seasons.

For first year coach Wyking Jones, the loss was both encouraging and disappointing as he attempts to elevate the young Bears back to conference title contending status.

“For 40 minutes I felt like we gave everything that we had so I’m happy,” Jones said. “It was good to see that and feel that in the building.”

Cal kept Stanford on its heels with its scrambling defense that forced 16 turnovers, along with six blocked shots and six steals. But the extra possessions that their defense produced mattered little when juxtaposed against the Bears’ 37 percent shooting, frequent fouling, and poorly timed scoring droughts. After getting even at 67, the Bears’ Justice Sueing missed a layup, and Marcus Lee and Juwahn Harris-Dyson committed turnovers.

Daejon Davis, who led Stanford with 22 points, fouled out with 2:11 remaining, and the two ensuing, made Don Coleman free throws got the Bears within three. But Cal was already in the process of missing its final five shots from the field, including a head scratching three-point attempt by seldom-used Roman Davis with three seconds remaining and Cal trailing by four.  Those late misses allowed Stanford to hang on, a far more palatable result than them blowing a double-digit lead in the final minutes of the conference opener that went to the Bears.

“The ending wasn’t how we wanted but overall I felt we played a much cleaner game,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. “Our competitive spirit was there.”

With the win, Stanford improved to 8-6 in Pac-12 play, good enough to keep pace with three other conference teams, all in hopes of finishing fourth in the final standings, and earning a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. The Bears fell into the conference cellar with the loss, tied with Washington State at 2-12.

The Bears conclude conference play with home games against Washington and Washington State, before traveling to Arizona to face the Sun Devils and Wildcats on the final weekend.

Don Coleman paced the Bears with 17 points, but missed 13 of his 19 shots from the field. Sueing and Lee added 15 points each, as the Bears enjoyed a rare, stellar day at the free throw line, making 18 of 22. But poor 3-point shooting (3 of 16) dulled any advantages the Bears gathered at the free throw line.

Stanford switched to a zone early in the second half, a rarity for the primarily man-to-man Cardinal. But the zone forced the Bears to share the ball and make smart decisions, neither strengths for the youth-laden Bears. Cal’s shooting dipped to 28 percent after halftime, and the 10 offensive rebounds they gathered in the first 12 minutes of the half amounted to very little on the scoreboard.