Cal men’s basketball overcomes stumbles in 20-point exhibition victory

Ketki Samel/Staff

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Exhibition games don’t count for anything in the grand scheme of a full season, but fresh off a year to forget, every win has value. Even if it comes against a Division II program.

Despite hiccups on both ends of the floor and some early tension, Cal men’s basketball handled Cal State East Bay, 82-62, and picked up a win in its lone exhibition game.

All in all, it was a relatively well-rounded offensive performance, featuring five players hitting double digits in points scored, but there was clear room for improvement.

“We looked at this as any given team,” said redshirt junior Paris Austin. “We wanted to worry about ourselves and the things we need to work on. We wanted to make sure we did the things we do right in practice. And tonight, we didn’t do those things.”

Freshman Matt Bradley introduced himself to Haas Pavilion with a team-high 18 points along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists, while Oakland’s own Austin had 15 points and 8 assists.

As a whole, the Bears’ incoming freshmen class showed some promise; Bradley was aggressive, Jacobi Gordon and Andre Kelly swallowed up boards, and Connor Vanover caught a lob from Austin that sent the gym into a frenzy.

“I didn’t feel like they were nervous,” head coach Wyking Jones said. “And for freshmen, that’s a big step. I felt like Andre was very comfortable out there, and I felt like Connor was comfortable out there. So I was happy I didn’t see any fear in their eyes.”

Whether it comes at Haas Pavilion or the neighboring Recreational Sports Facility, a win is a win, but the Bears have some things to clean up before departing for China to face Yale.

Defensively, Cal rotated far too slowly and allowed wide-open 3-pointers — a habit that has persisted from last season.

Cal State East Bay only shot 8 for 26 from deep, but many of those attempts came on wide-open looks that will fall in bunches as the season rolls along.

Considering their height and athleticism relative to the Pioneers, the Bears allowed a few too many offensive rebounds for comfort.

“I like our talent leave out there,” Jones said. “Defensively, I’ll look at the film and it will tell me more as far as the defense is concerned.”

On the flip side of that coin, the 3-point line was once again a barren desert for Cal. A year removed from being one of the worst shooting teams in the nation from distance, 3-pointers were hard to come by as the Bears shot 4 of 13 from three.

There’s no quick fix for hitting threes as there is for defending it, but the lack of a deep threat outside of Gordon and sophomore Darius McNeill made for some awkward spacing.

Having Austin orchestrate the offense certainly helped, but there were too many instances in which stagnation led to an ill-advised shot or turnover.

“I saw some good things,” Jones said. “I told the guys throughout the course of the game when we move the ball around and make the defense work, we get really good looks.”

Justice delos Santos covers men’s basketball. Contact Justice delos Santos at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @justdelossantos.