Cal men’s basketball fends off Santa Clara’s late run in 78-66 victory

Kevin Chan /File

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Update 11/28/18: This article has been updated to reflect a change in the box score. Freshman Matt Bradley and sophomore Juhwan Harris-Dyson’s respective point totals have been adjusted accordingly.

Second halves at Haas Pavilion haven’t been all that friendly to the home team thus far, but Cal men’s basketball managed to fend off yet another a late-game surge, defeating Santa Clara, 78-66.

The Bears looked dead in the water late in the second half when the Broncos cut a 16-point lead all the way down to just 1 point. But just when all appeared lost, Cal ripped off a 25-14 run over the final seven minutes to lock in its second win of the season.

“Really proud of my guys the way they responded when they cut it to one,” said head coach Wyking Jones.

The Bears responded to the Broncos’ late run with some lights-out shooting down the stretch, totaling 47 points in the second half and hitting their attempts at a clip of 61.5 percent.

Freshman Matt Bradley and sophomore Juhwan Harris-Dyson both recorded career-highs with 15 points apiece. Harris-Dyson’s big game comes after he only scored 4 points in his first three games.

“My teammates trusted me, and they got me the ball where I could score. I kind of just went from there,” Harris-Dyson said.

Along with Bradley and Harris-Dyson, freshman Andre Kelly, sophomore Justice Sueing and redshirt junior Paris Austin all hit double figures. This game marks the second time this season Cal has had five players total at least 10 points.

Sophomore Darius McNeill got into foul trouble and only recorded 5 points in 18 minutes, but head coach Wyking Jones noted there was a moment of growth that won’t show up in the box score.

“I told (McNeill) to check into the game for Matt, then Matt scored three buckets in a row,” Jones said. “(McNeill) said, ‘Coach, just keep him in the game.’ For me, that’s a step in the right direction as far as him being able to sacrifice his own personal stats — minutes, whatever you want to call it — and say, ‘You know what, coach, it’s about the team; it’s not about me.’ ”

Santa Clara’s offense was cooler than a polar bear’s toenails to start the game, not recording its first points of the ballgame until the 12:28 mark in the first half. Before a shot finally hit the bottom of the nylon, the Broncos had missed their first six shots and turned the ball over seven times.

By the time sophomore Josip Vrankic dropped in a gimme under the rim to put Santa Clara on the scoreboard, Cal had already had a double digit lead.

The Broncos’ freshman point guard Trey Wertz had an especially tumultuous beginning, being responsible for three of those seven turnovers while missing his only shot attempt of the half.

Santa Clara’s offense began to find a little rhythm after they finally managed to put some points on the board. After missing its first half-dozen shots, the Broncos converted 7 of its next 15 shots and salvaged an otherwise hopeless half of basketball.

Cal entered the halftime break up 31-19, a lead that probably should have been higher considering Santa Clara turned the ball over 14 times before the break.

Opposed to its dry ice-esque beginning, Santa Clara came out of the halftime break with some juice, going bucket-for-bucket with Cal and then some.

Wertz looked like a different player in the second half. After going scoreless in the first half on one lone shot attempt, the young point guard orchestrated the suddenly hot Broncos offense, scoring all of his 16 points in the second half.

Santa Clara cut the lead to as little as one measly point before Cal kicked it into maximum overdrive, going on a game-clinching run.

Leading that run was Bradley who, over a four-minute stretch, who scored 14 consecutive points for the Bears.

Right before the freshman’s scoring barrage began, Cal only lead 54-52. By the time it ended, the Bears had a much more comfortable 68-58 lead with two-and-a-half minutes remaining.

A thunderous, one-handed flush by Harris-Dyson at the two-minute mark extended the Bears’ lead to 12 points, the dagger that officially finished off the Broncos.

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