Despite missing their two leading scorers and trailing for more than 35 minutes, Cal men’s basketball persevered through a rough game and defeated Seattle University 70-65 to have a winning record heading into conference play.
The Bears started the game off-kilter, shooting only 2 for 7 from the field which, in addition to four early turnovers, let the Redhawks surge to a 19-9 lead. Star junior guard Matt Bradley suited up for the game, but did not play due to an ankle injury he suffered in the closing minutes against San Francisco. Senior forward Grant Anticevich, who underwent an emergency appendectomy last Friday morning, remained out.
“Sometimes you just have to find a way to win and I think that’s what we had to do today. Seattle came into the game more prepared to play than we did,” said Cal head coach Mark Fox. “I didn’t feel great about our mojo today.”
Seattle star guard Darrion Trammell caused problems early for the Bears as he notched seven points, three assists, and three steals in the first ten minutes of the game. Forward Emeka Udenyi ran straight through Cal’s defense as he scored 10 points on five for six shooting in the first half.
The blue and gold struggled on all fronts as the turnover margin and rebound deficit kept climbing. Cal managed to pull its defense together in the second part of the half, but their offense kept them from taking the lead. It took the Bears eight attempts and just over 16 minutes to hit their first three-pointer.
“So we played from behind, and obviously we were severely disjointed with the lineups that we’re playing,” Fox said. “We just had to manufacture and find a way to win, which fortunately we did.”
A few late baskets from Kuany Kuany, who matched his career high of 11, and Andre Kelly put Cal back within reach, down only 37-33 at the half.
“I thought Kuany was terrific until he turned his ankle…In the first half he made shots off the bounce,” Fox said. “He continues to develop as a player and it was really good to see him have a game where he certainly impacted winning.”
There was plenty for the Bears to discuss in the locker room but the biggest problems were the lopsided seven to two turnover ratio and the poor 13 for 29 shooting. Joel Brown, Makale Foreman, and Kelly all started the game and combined for just two baskets in 48 total minutes of play.
“You can’t be defeated after a team is up double-digits,” Brown said. “We’re just continuing to grow as a team and trust in one another.”
Cal came out of the locker room looking like a completely different team. The Bears traded baskets with the Redhawks and everyone on the team was contributing. Seattle was just one step ahead for much of the second period, as Udenyi and Trammell always found a way to the basket and the Redhawks kept the lead.
With about 10 minutes left in the second half, Cal’s defense forced a couple of turnovers and managed to pull the game within one point. A second chance three from Ryan Betley, just the fourth made three-pointer of the game for the Bears, gave the blue and gold their first lead of the game 55-53. The Redhawks responded with two quick threes to regain the lead, but a layup and three-pointer from Brown gave it right back to Cal.
“We didn’t have a great rhythm. It took us a while to find some things that work for us,” Fox said. “I think it all started with our ability to get a few stops.”
Another three from Brown, which gave him 12 points in the second half, and a layup from Foreman sealed the game for the Bears. Three wins in a row, including two without their two leading scorers, should give Cal some confidence heading into conference play — confidence the team will need on the road against Oregon next week.
“If we can just continue pushing each other in practice, believing in one another, and just helping each other out…we can make a run in our conference,” Brown said.
Trilok Reddy covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].