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Cal Basketball

Fox Laments Bears' Defensive Effort

November 11, 2021

Based on Cal’s performance against UC San Diego Tuesday night, those who picked the Bears to finish last in the Pac-12 knew what they were talking about. 

The favored Bears were trashed by the visitors 80-67. When you suffer a double digit loss to a team you are supposed to beat there are numerous areas in need of improvement. As he prepares his team for Saturday night’s game at UNLV, head coach Mark Fox is concentrating on one in particular.

“We better start playing some defense, We better sustain some defense,” Fox said Wednesday in a Zoom session with the media. “That is something we have to get committed to doing. You can say what you want about everything else. It is hard to get a fast break when you’re taking it out of the net. We have to start defending. 

“Obviously with a little bit of a depth issue right now, we have to be smart in how we defend. ...Until we start making progress it is going to be a dead end.”

Kelly Cox USA Today
Mark Fox

The depth issue is significant. Five players, Monty Bowser, Jaylen Celestine, Makale Foreman, Marsalis Roberson and D.J. Thorpe were unable to play against UCSD. 

“I don’t have an update, we are hopeful to get one of them back (Saturday),” Fox said. “But we don’t have them back yet.”

Fox declined to say whose return was imminent. “More realistic that it will be a few more days,” he said. “We haven’t made a lot of progress there. Even if they’re injured we may take one or two (to Las Vegas) just to keep the team chemistry,” He wouldn’t reveal the nature of the injuries, saying only, “They are not COVID-related.”

Some may last beyond this weekend.”I don’t think anyone is going to require surgery, although the (surgery) option for a couple of those may be in play,” he said. “We are going to do the non-surgical route first and see if we can avoid that. I hope that they’re not long-term, but certainly there are a couple that are significant.”

VIrtually every Cal player, except transfer Jordan Shepherd, who led the Bears with 27 points, had a fall-off from his performance in the exhibition victory over Cal State L.A.. None was more pronounced than Grant Anticevich. After scoring 23 points and hitting 10 of his 12 field goal tries in the exhibition, the Australian hit just two of 10 field goal attempts and missed all four of the three-point tries. 

“He would be the first one to tell you he played poorly at both ends,” Fox said. “He got too reliant at just being a jump-shooter and when they didn’t go in, it impacted the rest of his night.

“He has been a good player. I told him bad nights happen. He had a tough opener, but we all did. He has to own that, we have to own it and we will. We will fight to get back to where we need to be,”

Saturday night’s game against UNLV will not be easy. “Obviously with a new coach, a lot of new faces. I have known Kevin (Kruger) a long time and known his father (Lon) nearly 40 years. Great basketball family. 

“It’s a very traditionalist basketball program that is starting to rebuild with a bunch of transfers. They are athletic, they can score. They really guard you. I think for a coach in his first year with the transfer portal available, he is taking full advantage of that, and has assembled a pretty good team.”

The Rebels are off to a good start as they took on Gardner-Webb, 64-58, in their season opener. Royce Hamm, a 6-9 center who transferred from Texas, grabbed 17 rebounds, blocked four shots and discouraged several others.  He finished with 18 points.

Guard Bryce Hamilton, whom Kruger talked into staying in Vegas, led the Rebels with 23 points. He hit just four of his first 20 shots but kept firing. He wound up with 23 points as he hit four of his last five shots including some clutch buckets down the stretch.

Kruger stresses tight defense and UNLV forced 16 turnovers.


Bears Drop Season Opener to UC San Diego

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