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Rivalry games always have a little more juice; an additional, special energy. But this wasn’t just any enemy for Cal – this was her younger brother in the south: UCLA. And not only did the Nation’s # 24 team that came to town last December blasted Cal’s doors, but they were also on the Pac-12, racing a six-game winning streak.
It gave a glimmer of hope that junior guard Matt Bradley, the Bears’ leading scorer who has missed the last five games with an ankle injury, would pass if he participated in warm-up exercises. Minutes before the tip, however, he was disfellowshipped and the chances of the Berkeley boys’ angry win diminished drastically.
While the team fought valiantly to the end, it just wasn’t enough with UCLA holding the Haas nationally Pavilion narrowly escaped with a 61-57 win.
« It was really a highly competitive and good college basketball game, » said Cal head coach Mark Fox. « We made too many mistakes against a great team. »
If they wanted to avoid an eighth consecutive loss to UCLA, Cal had to shoot his way out of Thursday night’s competition. And that’s exactly what they did first – the bears shot an impressive 58.3% from the depth in the first half.
After falling 5-0 early, security guard Makale Foreman skipped his first three-point attempt of the night to get the bears onto the board. The Bruins scored four more hits and went up by six, but the Bears held on to it by fighting for loose balls and looking for second chance opportunities.
While UCLA scored frequently, Cal scored in by shooting the deep ball Groups and stayed within striking distance. In fact, 12 of the bears’ first 20 points came from three-point marks. Great Australian man Grant Anticevich was a big contributor to Cal’s success behind the arc.
Anticevich, the only senior on the roster, made his first four triples along with a smooth post-fadeaway over Jamie Jaquez Jr. of the Bruins on the way to his season high of 21 points. By extending the defense, Anticevich helped clear the ground and create good looks for his teammates and it soon paid off.
« We have some new people and some younger people. It is important that we all speak on the ground, ”said Anticevich. « It’s our responsibility to help the team in this way. »
Somewhat surprisingly, the bears took the first lead of the night from another Foreman triple. Fox and his players had a 23:22 lead and had fun – a beautiful full-court outlet pass from striker Andre Kelly to protect Ryan Betley had the socially distant bench of the bears on its feet. The game even earned Kelly a high-five from his head coach.
« When we’re healthy, we want to play faster. We want to find as many easy baskets as possible, » said Fox.
After just under three Minutes into the first half, Cal had a six point lead after a 1-1 draw from Jared Hyder – the largest of the game. A putback layup on Summer helped the Bruins take the lead but it was underdog Bears who did went into halftime 36-32.
UCLA came out hot on goal and took the lead back, but every time the Bruins took a shot, Cal responded at the other end and it was game in less than 15 minutes finished with 43 per game. After both teams had swapped baskets on the track, the bears finally bought a 55:54 lead over the back of an Anticevich triple.
However, the Bruins soon found their position again in the second half they beat the home team between 2 4 and 12 and took advantage of their chances by collecting six second chance points for the bears zero.
A three-time late Jules Bernard would be the dagger in Cal’s heart, as the Sons of Westwood were at a four point lead held on. After a minute between 59 and 55, UCLA began killing the watch. The bears knew that lazing three times in 13 seconds and hoping for missed free throws is not a recipe for success.
« It’s a shame we couldn’t win. We felt right there, » said Anticevich .
Cal was right there. In a game where blue and gold had no place on paper, the Bears were just a few games away from victory, given the seemingly imminent return of Bradley, the Mark Fox’s team seems to be on an upward trend long after the last buzzer was fired.
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