Story Poster
Photo by X / Cal Basketball
Cal Basketball

Bears Pull Out Tight 71-66 Victory in Opener Over St. Thomas

November 6, 2023
7,221

HAAS PAVILION - A seemingly eternal eight-month offseason transition between the worst season in Cal basketball history to the beginning of the Mark Madsen era finally came to an end tonight as the Bears kicked off their 2023-24 season with a surprisingly tight 71-66 win over a scrappy St. Thomas squad in Berkeley.

The Bears were led in the victory by 21 points by Jalen Celestine on 7-for-10 shooting and 3-for-4 from 3. They also got 16 points and 11 rebounds by grad transfer center Fardaws Aimaq. The Bears shot 49% from the floor and 7-for-15 from the perimeter but allowed 12 from the perimeter from St. Thomas and they outrebounded the smaller Tommies by a 31-23 margin.

"I think, number one, I would say you have to give a lot of credit to St. Thomas," Madsen said after the game. "St. Thomas is going to beat a lot of people this year because they can put five guys on the court that are all extremely proficient three-point shooters. They definitely were stroking 3's in the first half and even in the second half. We made two or three different adjustments, and they still found a way to get in threes. By the time we made our fourth adjustment, our guys were more locked in and the communication was better, and we did a much better job defending."

The game got off to a slow start for the Bears as they fell behind the Tommies in the opening minutes before taking their first lead on the first of back-to-back Celestine 3’s to go up 10-8 5:21 into the game. The redshirt soph was making his return after sitting out the 2022-23 season.

Celestine finished the half with 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting from the field. Aimaq led the Bears with 11 points and 9 rebounds as the Bears took a narrow 35-34 lead into the break. Their inability to contain a sharpshooting St. Thomas backcourt kept the game close as the Tommies went 5-for-8 from 3 in the half. Soph forward Grant Newell was also sharp, going 3-for-3 from the field in the half with a 3, a sweet fadeaway jumper and a jam. Frosh point guard Vlad Pavlovic gave the Bears an instant boost in his 5 first-half minutes with solid defense and a driving bucket.

Celestine picked up right where he left off in the second half, scoring the Bears' first five points on a three and a jumper but St. John’s retook the lead on a Drake Domms 3 and a Dom Martinelli runner, 41-40 four minutes into the half.

After St. Thomas took a three-point lead with 13:50 left, Celestine came up a driving bucket through traffic, converting the and-1. A Monty Bowser three on a kick out from Pavlovic put the Bears in 51-48 with 10:48 left on his first shot of the season a possession after securing a defensive rebound.

A pair of St. Thomas 3’s and five straight points by guard Jalen Cone - hit first of the game after starting 0-5 knotted the game with 7:50 remaining. The Tommies responded with a pair of buckets in their next two possession to go up 60-56 with 6:45 to go. Another Cone 3 -8 straight Cal points for the senior- along with an Aimaq fadeaway and an Aimaq pulled the Bears even with 3:40 remaining.

A driving Celestine bucket put the Bears in the lead with 2:50 left as the crowd got loud, particularly the full student section sporting their free Mad Dog t-shirts. After the Tommies tied it again on a Parker Bjorklund layup, the Bears had a chance to retake the lead but Celestine missed on the front end of a one-and-one with 1:15 remaining.

The Bears forced a crucial turnover caused by Aimaq on the ensuing possession and point guard Devin Askew gave the Bears a lift with an aggressive driving bucket to put the Bears up by a pair with 47 seconds left. A pair of Cone free throws extended the lead to 68-64 with 27 remaining.

The Bears appeared to have the game in hand after an Aimaq block and Askew rebound with :18 left but Celestine was whistled for a foul on a push on the rebound. The Tommies were unable to capitalize, turning over the ball on an errant pass and fouling Askew on the inbounds pass. Askew hit the second of two shots putting the Bears up by 5 and a driving bucket by Dobbs pulled St. Thomas to within 3 again. Forced to foul on the inbounds pass, Aimaq iced the game with a pair of free throws in the final seconds to give the Bears the too-close-for-comfort win.

Celestine showed no rust from the year off with his game-saving play.

"First of all, I can't say enough about Jalen Celestine," Madsen said. "I mean, when we first got here, Jalen wasn't quite at the point where he is now. He was getting shots up. He was doing a lot of things, but he was still kind of getting over that last hump of the injury. And you guys can see it's a full and complete recovery because of this hard work because of great medical care, but because of Jalen Celestin is diligent. So I'm incredibly proud of him. He's someone who's a great teammate. We have we have some younger guys on the team. We have some freshmen, we have some walk-ons. He's like that big brother figure that just takes guys under his wing. Everyone was so happy for him."

After the game, Madsen was asked about the status of injured guard Keonte Kennedy as well as Newell, who didn’t return in the second half after an unspecified injury.

"Keonte Kennedy has a minor upper extremity injury, and we expect him back shortly. He's been doing all the rehab, and he'll be back very shortly. This is not a long term injury for Keonte Kennedy. I don't have an exact timetable, but it's not going to be long. In terms of Grant Newell, I think he's still being looked at by some of our medical people. I'll have more of an update more of a clearer picture view of the next day or two.”

 

Discussion from...

Bears Pull Out Tight 71-66 Victory in Opener Over St. Thomas

5,757 Views | 12 Replies | Last: 7 mo ago by BearlyCareAnymore
CALiforniALUM
How long do you want to ignore this user?
That might be the most video footage in any post game report ever. Quick to post the story - game just ended. Kudos.
HateRed
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Says student section was full. Does that mean section behind basket up to the wall was full?
stu
How long do you want to ignore this user?
No other section was full. The good news is plenty of students were sitting in chairbacks.
JB was a Chieftain
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Great seeing a coach happy with his players
Growler91
How long do you want to ignore this user?
"Let the MadDog eat!"
KoreAmBear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Congrats Mad Dog. It makes me so happy to see our players enjoying a win. And Mad Dog praises unsung hero Monty Bowser who did get a huge three and a key rebound where he must have jumped up 4 feet. That is amazing to me. Who wouldn't run through a wall for this guy?
StillNoStanfurdium
How long do you want to ignore this user?
KoreAmBear said:

Congrats Mad Dog. It makes me so happy to see our players enjoying a win. And Mad Dog praises unsung hero Monty Bowser who did get a huge three and a key rebound where he must have jumped up 4 feet. That is amazing to me. Who wouldn't run through a wall for this guy?
Does anyone have a clip of that rebound by Bowser? Cause I agree it looked like he jumped insanely high for it.
bearmanpg
How long do you want to ignore this user?
What a contrast to the post game interviews the last few seasons....All praise deflected towards the players....Sincere "thank you's" to the media for covering the Bears....MFer couldn't do this EVER, even after a good win (extremely rare)
MoragaBear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Staff
bearmanpg said:

What a contrast to the post game interviews the last few seasons....All praise deflected towards the players....Sincere "thank you's" to the media for covering the Bears....MFer couldn't do this EVER, even after a good win (extremely rare)
He shook all the media's hands before the presser, too
GoOskie
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Wow. Loved the team celebration video.
Big C
How long do you want to ignore this user?
GoOskie said:

Wow. Loved the team celebration video.

Yeah! Normally (this is not "normally"), I would question a team's celebrating an eke-it-out victory over the piss ant Tommies as if they had just made the Final Four. But Cal has played completely without joy for several years now, so they need a little feel-good.
BearlyCareAnymore
How long do you want to ignore this user?
MoragaBear said:

bearmanpg said:

What a contrast to the post game interviews the last few seasons....All praise deflected towards the players....Sincere "thank you's" to the media for covering the Bears....MFer couldn't do this EVER, even after a good win (extremely rare)
He shook all the media's hands before the presser, too
I don't understand why these basics are so hard for so many coaches.
Refresh
Page 1 of 1
 
×
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.