The Bears play like a team that has an on and off switch flipping at random. They can easily string together two or three baskets and create a scoring run to extend their lead, but they can just as easily give up those baskets while not sinking a single shot for long stretches.
In the final seven and a half minutes of their matchup against the Bulldogs, the Bears only shot 1-7 from the field as they held onto a narrow lead to beat Fresno State 69-63 and remain undefeated at home. This ugly win made apparent the inconsistency Cal has on offense as it struggled to defeat the now 2-7 Bulldogs.
In the opening minutes, the Bears went on a 7-0 run to gain an early 9-3 lead. The Bulldogs responded almost immediately with a 7-0 run of their own to tie the game at 11 apiece. The back-and forth-affair continued with a 6-0 run for Cal followed by an 8-0 streak for Fresno State, and a brief exchange of buckets before another 7-0 run for the Bears.
While this style of play may seem to be indicative of an effective offense, this game was anything but a showcase of offensive talent. Both teams struggled shooting the ball in the first half, with Fresno State starting 1-8 from the field, and Cal airballing wide-open threes. At one point, the Bulldogs got a favorable matchup with 6’0” guard Paris Austin defending 6’10” forward Orlando Robinson in the post, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity. To make matters worse for Fresno State, it took nearly 16 minutes for the Bulldogs to hit their first three-pointer.
In the last five minutes of the opening half, with the score tied 19-19, both teams hit their stride and started trading shots. The teams managed to score a combined 23 points to end the half, with Cal leading 32-29.
Fresno State shot significantly better coming out of the break, putting in nearly 44% of its shots from the field and 36% from three. But what put the Bulldogs back in the game wasn’t their improved shooting, but their ability to rebound. The Bulldogs had 15 offensive rebounds to the Bears’ five, and accordingly had 15 second chance points to Cal’s four. This has been an issue for the blue and gold all season, having never once recorded more offensive rebounds than its opponents.
“Our rebounding tonight was one area we didn’t feel we executed well tonight,” said Cal head coach Mark Fox. “ I don’t think our rebounding is where it needs to be.”
Nate Grimes was a terror on the boards for the Bulldogs that the Bears struggled to contain, as he notched seven offensive rebounds and fourteen rebounds total.
Fresno State guard New Williams capitalized on Cal’s defensive struggles, recording his second straight 20-point game and sinking a season-high five three-pointers.
The Bears had their own offensive difficulties, but Kareem South and Matt Bradley sniffed their season highs and ended with 17 and 24 points respectively. The two guards were the only Cal players to hit a three-pointer this game.
This victory was a much-needed win for the Bears after losing two consecutive on the road against San Francisco and Santa Clara.
“After two losses, it’s always nice to come back home. Our confidence was high,” Bradley said. “We knew we needed to lock in against a good team in Fresno State, and tonight I think that showed.”
This game puts the Bears’ home record at 6-0, a marked improvement considering that Cal’s 2018 campaign didn’t notch its sixth win until February 28.
And although they will leave Haas Pavilion with a victory and improved confidence, there is a lot of room to grow for the Bears. Knocking down open shots with consistency might be more experience related than coaching, but executing a defensive strategy is something the Bears must do if they hope to be successful both in their upcoming game against St. Mary’s and in conference play.
Trilok Reddy covers men’s basketball. Contact him at