Some teams are just second-half teams. Whether it’s the players’ nerves, the opponents getting tired or better coaching adjustments at halftime, something just clicks for the last 20 minutes of basketball. Cal men’s basketball has hinted it may be one of those teams in its first two games, and Friday’s 82-62 win against California Baptist University was no different.
The Bears started the game on fire. In the first five minutes of the game, they lead by as many as 12 points; throughout the entire first half, CBU never held a lead. Based on his prolific scoring in the first two games, you might expect sophomore guard Matt Bradley to be doing most of the shooting for Cal, but it was actually junior forward Grant Anticevich who was sinking most of the buckets. After a little more than nine minutes had expired on the game clock, Anticevich was 5-5 for 14 points, breaking his previous career-high of 13.
“I think I’m just getting more comfortable continuing to play each game and feel more comfortable out there,” Anticevich said. “I think, as a team, we are improving each day. This kind of stuff is just coming natural to all of us, moreso than it did even three games ago.”
Despite Anticevich ending the half with 16 points and shooting 4-4 from the 3-point line, the Lancers had eroded all of the Bears’ lead. Cal had more turnovers, less second-chance and fast-break points and was playing terrible defense. Obviously, some changes were needed for the second half.
Despite the lead in most of the first half, the teams were tied 40-40 when the buzzer sounded. In all of Cal’s games this season, it has either been trailing or tied at halftime but has managed to win all three. The Bears were hoping to do the same against the Lancers.
“I feel like offensively we changed and also our intensity — we picked it up a lot in the second half,” Bradley said. “We denied 3-point shots, and we just manned up and guarded our man. Good overall effort from everybody.”
The Bears came out of the locker room with new defensive energy and were ready to put this game away. The Lancers only shot 23% from the field in the second half and shot an even worse 13% from the 3-point line. With 15:06 left on the clock, Cal started what would be a 17-0 run to put the game out of CBU’s reach. The Bears outscored the Lancers 42-22 in the second half to win the game 82-62. Anticevich finished with 23 points and was just one rebound away from notching a double-double.
“I am hopeful that we can learn from tonight’s game, much like you would do after you lose a game, because we didn’t play particularly well in one portion of the first half. You have to be willing to learn on the games that you win and not just learn after you get your tail beat,” said Cal men’s basketball head coach Mark Fox. “This group just hasn’t been ahead a lot, and we didn’t handle it very well — the great start. We handled it very immaturely, to be honest with you, and it cost us.”
Cal played the second and final part of the regional round of the 2K Empire Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project at home Monday night against Prairie View A&M. Later this week, the Bears will travel to New York to face No. 1 Duke and then play either Texas or Georgetown.
Trilok Reddy covers men’s basketball. Contact him at