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Cal Basketball

Bradley's Return Not Enough in Loss to USC

January 23, 2021
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Leading scorer Matt Bradley returned to the lineup for the Cal men’s basketball team Saturday night and it was almost enough to beat USC.

Almost.

The young Bears made too many mistakes and too few buckets down the stretch and lost to the Trojans, 76-68, at Haas Pavilion. 

The Bears’ mood after the defeat was predictably subdued. Nobody is happy with a loss, but there was a note of optimism, as well. With Bradley back on the court, Cal (7-10, 2-8 Pac-12) is whole again. 

“This is the first time since October that we have had everybody,” coach Mark Fox said of a team that has had numerous players miss time. “Now we have to see if we can develop some continuity with our offense, with our rotation. We have some depth now. It is going to take Matt a little time. I want everyone to be patient with him. He had a nasty sprain and it is going to take him some time to get back. Hopefully going forward we can start to build the team we thought we would have had back in November. We haven’t had all the pieces until now.”

Bradley, who missed the last five games and seven of the last nine, played 24 minutes, scored 11 points but was just 1-for-6 on 3-pointers.

“It’s hard to miss three weeks and jump back in and be the player you were,” Fox said. “But I thought his approach was really good.”

The whole team operates differently when Bradley is on the floor, even when he isn’t quite 100 percent.

“Matt’s a bucket,” said guard Joel Brown, who finished with 15 points. “A lot of attention draws to him which opens things up for me, Jared (Hyder), Grant (Anticevich), Ryan, (Betley). He brings a lot of aggressiveness, both offensively and defensively. It’s great to have him back on the court.”

Bradley did not start and entered the game at the 16:35 mark. By that time the Trojans (12-3, 6-2) were ahead and on their way to an 11-point lead.

But the Bears did not fold. After USC took its 15-4 lead at 14:58, the Bears started making shots and grabbing rebounds. 

They hit 3s, layups and free throws, whittling away at the visitors’ lead. Finally at 6:48 Makale Foreman’s two free throws tied it. 

From there on it was close, with nobody getting ahead by more than six until late in the second half. The lead changed hands 20 times.USC was inching ahead until a crucial sequence. With the Trojans up by two at the 5:57 mark, Cal’s Andre Kelly was fouled under the bucket by USC’s 7-foot Evan Mobley. But after the whistle blew and the two players had not disengaged, Kelly gave the Trojan a bit of a shove with his forearm. He was called for a technical foul. Tahj Eaddy hit the two free throws and USC got possession.

“That was a huge play,” Fox said. “Cost us two points and the ball.” The Cal coach had no problem with the officials on the call. “It was adjudicated correctly,” Fox said.

That was also Kelly’s fourth foul. He would pick up number five minutes later and head to the bench. His replacement DJ Thorpe would also foul out. The two had been doing a respectable defensive job on Mobley, who is impossible to totally contain. 

With more freedom the USC talented freshman took over, scoring from underneath and opening the floor up for his teammates. Meanwhile, the Bears turned cold and got a little careless with the ball.. In the final 6:18 the Trojans outscored the Bears, 13-7.

Cal had held Mobley to eight points and one field goal in the first half. But he finished with 25 and he even hit a 3-pointer.

“He’s an elite player,” Fox said. 

The Trojans were also 7-for-15 on treys, and had 17 offensive rebounds that they turned into 16 second-change points..

Brown and Antecivich both had 15 points to lead the Bears. 

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Bradley's Return Not Enough in Loss to USC

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