Cal Men's Basketball: Cal falls to Arizona State at Haas
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Cal falls to Arizona State at Haas

On Sunday, Cal men’s basketball fell to Arizona State by a final score of 80-75. Arizona State junior guard Remy Martin (22 points & 5 assists) and junior guard Alonzo Verge, Jr. (22 points & 6 rebounds) led the way for the Sun Devils while Cal sophomore guard Matt Bradley (22 points), Cal junior forward Grant Anticevich (18 points & 8 rebounds), and Cal senior point guard Paris Austin (17 points, 5 rebounds, & 5 assists) were the top performers for the Golden Bears. Arizona State improves to 17-8 overall and 8-4 in the Pac-12, completing their first road sweep in conference play in a decade. Cal falls to 10-15 overall and 4-8 in the Pac-12.

“Really a hard fought game and we lost to a very good Arizona State team who is still in the hunt for the Pac-12 championship, for the NCAA tournament,” Cal head coach Mark Fox said after the game. “I thought it was a game in which both teams competed super hard and I thought that we showed some maturity in the first half playing through Matt’s foul trouble and had a lot of guys play well and keep us in the game. Matt certainly had a great second half and then at the end, you have to tip your hat to Remy Martin. He made some terrific plays as an experienced winner does. Sometimes in defeat you play well. And I thought we did a lot of things well. But we didn’t win obviously, which is what we came here to do.”

Arizona State got off to a strong start in this game, leading 12-7 with 15:43 to go in the half. The Devils were shooting 4-7 from the field while the Bears were shooting 3-6. Bradley was already in early foul trouble for the Bears, picking up his second foul after trying to draw a charge. Bradley having to sit put a monkey wrench in the starting lineup change, which featured Joel Brown and Andre Kelly in place of Kareem South and Lars Thiemann.

“We just felt like our matchups were going to be better with the way we started the game,” Fox said of the lineup change. “And then that plan went out the window as soon as Matt got in foul trouble. And so, obviously we had to adjust. But we felt like that Joel and Paris would give us the best matchups tonight.”

Touching more on Bradley, foul trouble has been a recent issue for him. At Utah, he had to play limited minutes due to picking up an early foul. Fox said he wants Bradley to stay aggressive while also acknowledging that he needs to play smarter. Something he feels will come with more experience.

“I think he’s had, recently he’s had some foul issues,” Fox said of Bradley. “He went over to take a charge, which I want him to do every time. It’s maybe the first one he’s gotta try and avoid. That he got within the first minute of the game. Because when you get a cheap one, then you take away the opportunity for one that could go either way that goes against you. As he develops as a player, he’s not even an upperclassman yet, he has to develop the ability to play on both ends and be smart about it. But he’s such a great competitor that that got him in a little bit of trouble tonight.”

Cal would get back in the game, trailing 17-15 with 11:15 to go in the half. Bradley returned from his absence, knocking down a jumper. Cal made 3 of their last 3 shots and 5 of their last 7. Arizona State hadn’t scored in the last 3:03, giving Cal a little bit of momentum.

With 7:16 to go in the half, Arizona State led 21-17. Cal had missed their last 7 field goal attempts (0 field goals in the last 4:42). Arizona State was shooting 8-18 from the field and 3-5 from deep. Cal in contrast was shooting 6-16 from the field and 1-3 from deep. At this point, it was Anticevich that led all scorers with 7 points. He got into a nice rhythm early for Cal, giving them much needed scoring.

“We played really unselfish and my teammates did a great job of getting into the paint and creating open shots for me,” Anticevich said. “So, I had time and space to get them off, so I was able to get into a bit of a rhythm.”

Cal would continue to close the gap, tying the game up 26-26 with 3:46 to go in the half. Anticevich was going wild with 14 points on 5-8 shooting from the field and 2-3 shooting from deep. He was the spark that Cal desperately needed. At halftime, Arizona State held a 32-31 lead. Martin led the Devils with 7 points while Anticevich’s 14 points led the Bears. It was a tight game that I felt slightly favored Cal.

“Well we’re asking Grant to do a lot,” Fox said of Anticevich. “We ask a lot of these guys to take on roles that usually take a couple years to develop into. We didn’t have that luxury. These guys have had to go from maybe not playing much to playing the minutes that you just mentioned (35 minutes). As they do that there’s going to be public growing pains, but I think Grant has handled it all really well and tonight he came back. He hasn’t been as productive scoring the ball the last few weeks, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t played well. We’re just asking a lot of the kid and it was good to see him have a pretty good night.”

Arizona State got off to a strong start in the 2nd half, leading 38-33 with 16:51 to go. The Devils made 3 of their last 3 field goal attempts, causing the Bears to call for time. Cal would narrow the gap a bit after two made free throws from Kareem South. As a result, Cal would trail 38-35 with 15:48 to go. Shooting 6-7 from the line, Cal needed to see if they could get to the foul line with more regularity.

With 11:27 to go, Arizona State led 48-44. Bradley was starting to heat up for Cal as he had 11 points. Cal was doing a nice job inside, outrebounding Arizona State 27-22. A key to the game coming in was for their front court to step up and so far, they were doing that. Especially on the glass.

The game would get closer still as Arizona State led 56-55 with 7:39 to go. Bradley (18 points) and Anticevich (16 points) led Cal while Verge, Jr. (15 points) and Martin (13 points) led Arizona State. Bradley was exploding offensively. After scoring just 2 points in the 1st half, he had 16 points in the 2nd half.

“Matt played really well,” Austin said. “He was out a lot in the first half due to fouls, but Matt’s a warrior. I’d pick him on my team anytime. Love that dude.”

Over the next few minutes, Arizona State would gain separation from Cal, leading 66-58 with 4:20 to go. The Devils were on a 6-0 run, looking like they were going to pull out the victory. Cal really needed a basket and a stop. Rather than closing the gap, Cal found themselves down by 7 points (71-64) with 53.8 to go. Martin (22 points) really took over down the stretch as he had his 9th 20+ point game of Pac-12 play. I remember talking to him at Pac-12 media day about how much he works on shooting on tired legs. All that practice showed.

“Yeah, he’s a good player,” Austin said of Martin. “I felt like we did a good job defending him in the end of the game. He made some big shots. That’s what good players do. He made some good shots.”

While Cal would get the game a bit closer and improve the score, they were unable to come back. Arizona State walked out with an 80-75 win, making it five wins in a row for them. Arizona State needed to win this game to boost their NCAA tournament resume and they played like it. As for Cal, this loss is a bit disappointing in that it felt winnable going in. That said, they fought until the very end and got a beat by a team that is more experienced and seasoned than them.

“I think it came down to stops in the last maybe six minutes of the game,” Austin said of what determined the game. “They made some really big plays. Big threes, big rebounds. I just think it came down to defense…I think we feel good. We took a few losses, but that didn’t hurt us. I think we still are all motivated to win games.”

Up next for Cal is a road trip to face the Washington schools. Up first will be Washington State in Pullman. That game will tipoff on Wednesday at 7:00 PM PST on Pac-12 Networks.