Bears bounce back for 1st victory of season

Connor Pickett/Courtesy

Related Posts

The Bears rebounded from Wednesday’s season-opening loss in their 86-61 victory over Northwest. Graduate transfer Ryan Betley had a game-high 14 points and overall, Cal shot 50.8% compared to the Eagles’ 37.9%. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicates, however, as the Bears led by as many as 37 points.

Cal decided to change its starting lineup after a disappointing loss to Oregon State. Joel Brown, Grant Anticevich and Lars Thiemann were replaced by Makale Foreman, Kuany Kuany and D.J. Thorpe. This lineup change proved to be effective early, as Cal’s overwhelming size gave it an early 10-3 lead in which all the starters besides Betley scored at least one basket.

Betley continued his hot shooting from the Oregon State game as he extended the blue and gold’s lead to 8. The highlight of the half came when freshman forward Monty Bowser drove down the baseline and dunked over Northwest’s Daniel Sharpe for just his second career collegiate basket.

Cal’s defense in the first half was intense: It forced Northwest to shoot only 27% from the field and 25% from three. This suffocating defense led to many easy fast-break points, including three free throws for junior forward Andre Kelly, which gave the Bears a 20-7 lead 10 minutes into the game. Back-to-back hook shots for Kelly extended Cal’s lead to 17, and a Betley 3-pointer helped form a 14-0 run, blooming the score quickly to a 27-7 deficit for the Eagles. Northwest junior guard J.R. Delgado hit a one-step, pullup three to end the run at 16 and cut the lead to 19.

The Bears’ size advantage was on full display as they outrebounded the Eagles 24 to 18 at the half. Northwest was forced into many contested jumpers rather than getting easier shots at the rim. Not only did the Eagles struggle to get to the free-throw line, but they couldn’t even capitalize on the rare chance at free points, missing each of their four free throw attempts in the first half.

Despite entering the half with a 41-21 lead, it was not all positives for Cal. The Bears were a little careless with the ball, turning it over eight times while the Eagles only turned it over five times. However, the Bears’ shooting did bounce back after a miserable performance against Oregon State. They shot north of 40% from three and made more than half of their shots overall in the first 20 minutes of action. The biggest positive for Cal was the fact it managed to score 41 halftime points despite junior guard Matt Bradley scoring just 5 points. It’s hard to beat Cal if it is getting consistent offense from the supporting cast.

The second half started as an all offense, no defense affair. The Bears and Eagles traded easy baskets early, including a wide-open layup for sophomore forward Kuany on an assist from Bradley. The momentum shifted in Cal’s favor when Bradley got an offensive rebound that got him to the line for the first time in the half.

Bradley then proceeded to miss both attempts but followed up with an and-one the very next possession, where he uncharacteristically missed yet another free throw. The junior standout then left the court with an apparent cut on his leg. The Bears didn’t let their star’s injury affect them, though, as Foreman and Betley splashed back-to-back threes to extend the lead to 26. Fortunately for Cal, Bradley’s injury was not serious, as the junior returned to the game and even attempted a putback dunk.

The Bears scored in a variety of fashions throughout the matchup. From Kelly spin layups to Foreman and-one reverse lay-ins, the Eagles had no answer for the Cal offense. Bradley clearly learned from the Oregon State game, as he played more team ball with many extra passes against Northwest instead of forcing his shot again.

The Eagles’ solid second-half start was quickly overrun, as their deficit ballooned from 20 points to 36 after back-to-back layups by Thiemann — but the game was basically over already. Late in the second half on a fast break, Foreman sprinted up the court and lobbed it to the trailing Bowser, who got his second highlight dunk of the game to finish off the Eagles for good.

Northwest will certainly not be the toughest opponents the Bears find themselves against this season, but a first victory always points to a step in the right direction.

Tom Aizenberg covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].