Recap: Cal dodges a bullet against Prairie View
On Monday, Cal men’s basketball defeated Prairie View A&M 54-50, improving to 4-0 on the season. Prairie View falls to 1-4. Sophomore guard Matt Bradley led the way for the Golden Bears with 16 points and 4 rebounds while junior forward Grant Anticevich chipped in 13 points to along with 6 rebounds. Redshirt senior guard Chancellor Ellis and sophomore guard Faite Williams each finished with 12 points for the Panthers.
“Let me first say that we have a lot of respect for Prairie View,” Cal head coach Mark Fox said after the game. “They had obviously a terrific team a year ago, they understand winning, but they play super hard. I thought they played more determined basketball today than we did. I thought we were poorly coached today, I thought we played poorly. And two wrongs make a wrong. We were fortunate to escape with a win, but we have to play better basketball than we played today.”
This game was tight from the opening tip as Cal led 10-8 with 15:38 to go in the first half. Anticevich got off to another hot start with 5 points, including a 3-pointer while Bradley got a 3-pointer to fall of his own. Freshman center Lars Thiemann got on the board early as well, knocking down a pair of free throws. Cal had 3 turnovers at this point, giving the Panthers extra scoring opportunities.
Shortly after, freshman forward Kuany Kuany checked in for the first time of the season, providing a nice little spark for Cal off the bench. In his 2:40 run, he made a nice little floater inside on his only field goal attempt of the night. While his 2 points may seem modest, in such a tight game, his ability to contribute at all made a difference. With 11:41 to go in the half, the game was tied 16-16. Kuany’s bucket gave Cal a 16-14 lead, but Javen Hedgeman came right back for the Panthers, making his lone field goal attempt of the night as well. Cal was shooting 6-10 from the field while Prairie View was shooting 6-14. Cal was now up to 6 turnovers, continuing to play a sloppy brand of basketball.
“It was really nice to get him back,” Fox said of Kuany’s return. “And the hard part is he hasn’t been able to practice live and so we wanted to get him in the game a little bit because he hasn’t been able to go five-on-five until yesterday. And so he’ll be a very valuable piece for us if we can get him caught up and I thought in his couple minutes he did a couple good things.”
With 7:56 to go in the half, Prairie View was up 24-23 as Cal had already reached the double-digit turnover mark with 10. When given the chance, Cal was shooting well (8-13 from the field) as Bradley (6 points), Anticevich (5 points), and Kareem South (5 points) were all evenly sharing the scoring load.
With 5:10 to go in the half, Cal held a narrow 26-24 lead as Fox called for time, hoping to inject some life into his team. Cal would extend their lead to eight points (32-24) despite not playing pretty basketball as there was 3:49 to go in the half. One bright spot for Cal at this point was they were doing a decent job of getting to the foul line where they were shooting a respectable 8-11.
Cal would go on to finish the half on a 12-2 run to take a 35-26 lead into the locker room. In a fitting ending to the half, Cal turned the ball over with only a couple of seconds to go, resulting in a steal and layup from Darius Williams right before the buzzer sounded. Still, despite their sloppy play, Cal had their first halftime lead of the season, an improvement from their previous three games.
Rather than stomping on the Panthers’ throats to open the second half, Cal instead decided to let the Panthers creep back in the game. With 16:00 to go, Cal had a 37-30 lead as no one was in double figures yet on either side. If Cal didn’t turn on the jets in the next 4-5 minutes, it looked like we would be in for a very bumpy ride.
And a bumpy ride it would be as Prairie View would go on an 8-0 run as Cal scored 0 points over a stretch that lasted 6:42. With 12:20 to go, Cal was nursing a 37-34 lead, trying to hang on for dear life. Fox once again called for time, hoping that this time, his message would get through to his squad.
“Well, let’s give their team credit for their defense,” Fox said. “But let’s also be honest with ourselves and I think that because we had been so good offensively, that we felt like we could just shoot our way to victory. And you have to do more things than just shoot jumpers to win. And hopefully we learned that lesson today in a close one because I felt like that that was our mentality offensively and that’s not how you win. It’s not how you win. Hopefully some days you can win because you make jump shots, but that’s not the only thing that matters in the game and I felt like we had a little bit of an immature approach offensively and obviously our decisions with the basketball were not very good today.”
With 11:46 to go, Cal would go up 39-34 after a jumper from Bradley. Perhaps this would be the turning point that Cal was looking for. Alas, it was not, as Prairie View proceeded to go on a 10-0 run, leading 44-39 with 8:00 to go. 0 points for Cal in the last 4:08 as they were up to 20 turnovers. Cal was playing very poorly and if they didn’t turn things around, they were going to get handed a very embarrassing loss on their home floor.
“We were just in a rush at times,” Cal freshman Joel Brown said. “I mean, you gotta give credit to their defense. We’re fortunate to win this game and like Matt said, we just gotta grow and get better from this."
To Cal’s credit, they found a way to go on a 10-2 run of their own as Bradley was up to 15 points. Up 49-46 with 3:10 to go, Cal was back in front, trying to hang on. Over the next couple of minutes, it continued to be a dog fight as Prairie View wouldn’t go down without swinging. With 42.1 to go, Cal was up 52-50, looking to get a stop as Prairie View had the ball. With 20.3 to go, Prairie View had the ball down by three points as Bradley went 1-2 at the foul line. After the Panthers were unable to capitalize, Anticevich got a chance to ice the game away at the foul line and that he did, going 1-2 at the line.
In the end, Cal walked out with a 54-50 win, doing the bare minimum needed to get the victory. What prevented Cal from winning decisively is the fact that they turned the ball over 22 times and also got played to a 35-35 draw on the boards. Prairie View had 13 offensive rebounds, allowing themselves to get more second chance scoring opportunities than they should have.
“Yeah, basically things weren’t going our way,” Bradley said. “A lot of charge calls, a lot of careless plays, and we just gotta bring it up. We gotta step it up a little bit and we fought it out and ended up winning, so that’s what I’m proud about, though…Hats off to them, they played really hard. I feel like there was times where we didn’t really match their intensity, which was a problem and that’s pretty much it. We have the bigger guys, we should have come up with the rebounds, but they played hard and ended up getting them.”
Up next for Cal is a date with #1 Duke at the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. That game will tipoff at 6:30 PM PST on ESPN 2.