Cal Basketball

Wildcats Overwhelm Bears Late in Men's Basketball

February 13, 2020
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The Cal men’s basketball was even (or nearly even) with Arizona until almost midway in the second half Thursday night at Haas Pavilion. But the Wildcats talented  freshmen and senior Dylan Smith were too much for the Bears and UofA left with a 68-52 victory.

The Wildcats (17-7, 7-5 Pac-12) have won eight straight over the Bears (10-14, 4-7), and that streak could easily grow if the youngsters stick around. However, Zeke Nnaji (21 points, five rebounds) and Nico Mannion (10 points, five assists) have NBA talent as freshmen and are unlikely to stay in Tucson all that long. They were Arizona colors now, though, and along with Smith (ten points) were more than Cal could handle.

“Arizona has a very good team,” said Cal head coach Mark Fox after the game. “They are in the top 20 in their defense, the top 15 in their offense. They have excellent talent across their lineup and (Arizona coach) Sean (Miller) has done a very good job putting this team together. I think they have a chance to have a great (postseason) run and we didn’t play well enough to compete with a team like that tonight.”

The Bears have had trouble shooting lately, or at least shooting accurately, and Thursday night was no exception, especially in the first half, The Bears shot just 32 percent (8-for-25) in the first half. Some of that was traceable to the Cat’s defense but the Bears also missed some attempts that were low on the degree of difficulty. They finished at 38.2 percent.

They trailed by just 27-20 at the half, thanks to some gritty defense of their own and were hanging with the “Cats for the first few minutes of the second half. 

The crowd of 6,291, most wearing the “Gold Out” t-shirts that were distributed at the entrances, had its last moment of excitement with 13:52 left in the half. Arizona, which seemed to be reeling, called time out with the scoreboard reading 33-33. But over the next three and a half minutes. , the Wildcats outscored the Bears 12 to minus 1 and built a 13-point lead.

As the teams took the court following the timeout, the officials had subtracted a point from the Bears’ total, ruling that Grant Anticevich’s shot from the corner was a two rather than a three. The score was no longer tied.

WIth Nnaji scoring seven in the run the Cats were up 45-32 and really never looked back. Cal had a brief spurt to cut the margin to eight. But Arizona’s firepower was just too much as the visitors pulled away. 

As usual Matt Bradley led the Bears in scoring, as the sophomore guard scored 19 points, the only Bear in double-figure scoring.

"Hats off to Arizona. They are a really good team," Bradley said. "Defensively, they are long and athletic. I had to work hard for everything I got.” 

The Bears shot just two free throws in the first half, indicating maybe a bit of timidity, or some tolerance for contact on the part of the officals, Bert Smith, Gregory NIxon and Bob Sullivan. Actually, the Bears might have been better off staying off the free-throw line. They finished the game 4-for-10 from the line 

Of course, sending Arizona to there wasn’t such a great idea. And the Wildcats were in the one-and-one bonus situation midway through the second period. Unwilling to send the ‘Cats to the line, the Bears backed off. That concided with Arizona taking over the game.

“When they get in the bonus that early it makes it hard for us,” Fox said, “The defense that gives us a chance to win, we couldn’t compete that way.”

Not only did the ‘Cats find the way to the hoop open underneath, but the Bears had loosened up on the perimeter. After hitting just one three-pointer in seven tries in the first half, Arizona was 5-for-9 in the second.

Sophomore Andre Kelly had another stout game for the Bears scoring eight points and grabbing nine rebounds. When he was on the floor the Bears were plus-2, as he was the only Cal player not negative in that category. Fox was surprisingly restrained when asked about him.

“Andre’s has had a few more rebounds the last few games, he made a couple of baskets tonight,” Fox said. “I think he has been a little more consistent, which is good. I think he can do more, be more consistent but it’s nice to see him put some numbers in the box score.”

Bradley is averaging 7.0 rebounds over his last five games. In the five before that, he averaged 3.6

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Wildcats Overwhelm Bears Late in Men's Basketball

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