Despite staying close to home, Cal could not snap its winless road streak in Santa Clara, falling to the Broncos 71-52.
The Bears kept it competitive in the opening minutes, exchanging buckets and blows to keep the game within their grasp. Seven different players contributed to Cal’s first 16 points, giving the team a one-point lead with 9:47 left in the first half.
The Broncos’ offense, which came into the game boasting nearly 80 points per game, quickly turned its deficit around with a 25-12 run led by a six-point spurt from Guglielmo Caruso and a pair of threes from forward Josip Vrankic. Santa Clara finished the half 15 for 31 and 4 of 8 from three.
Santa Clara’s frenetic pace and sharp shooting stood in stark contrast to Cal’s performance which lacked the same energy and efficiency. Matt Bradley, who returned to the starting lineup after beginning the game on the bench for Cal’s matchup against San Francisco, shot an abysmal 2-9 in the first half including 0-3 from three. He was not alone in his poor shooting performance, as the Bears’ were inconsistent across the board in the first half, shooting 34% from the field, 28% from the three-point line and 66% from the charity stripe.
All hopes of a second half comeback for the blue and gold were dashed in the early moments as sloppy passing, blocked shots and pointless fouls prevented Cal from making substantial cuts into a sizeable deficit.
Santa Clara came out of the break struggling, resulting in its first four possessions ending in two turnovers and two fouls. But the Broncos, determined as their namesake would suggest, continued to rattle in three-pointers, racking up points with fury and fervor. Four players finished with double digits, as Caruso put up a team-high 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Bears hit rock bottom in terms of efficiency, shooting 21.7% from the field and making only one bucket in the final 13:27 of the second half. Cal did manage to get into the bonus with 12 minutes remaining, but that was a lone bright spot in an offense that was unable to find its rhythm.
With 6:27 left in the game, Matt Bradley made a contested layup and had choice words for the other team, resulting in a Class A technical foul and two free throws for Santa Clara. Despite the foul, Bradley stayed in until subbing out in the final minute of the game.
Although the Bears are 5-4, they have yet to find a win away from Haas Pavilion and have lost four of the last five. Their winless road streak started after a disappointing performance at the 2K Empire Classic and has only continued in their matchups against San Francisco and Santa Clara.
For a team returning just two of their top five scorers and adjusting to a new coach chemistry is bound to be an issue. But with upcoming marquee matchups and Pac-12 play set to start in January, the Bears have to turn their play around sooner rather than later.
Lucky for Cal, its next two games against Fresno State and St. Mary’s are at home, where the Bears are 5-0.