Grant Anticevich gave Cal a chance to upset No. 24 virtually by himself. But even Anticevich's big offensive night was not quite enough to pull the upset, as UCLA defeated the Bears 61-57 Thursday night at Haas Pavilion.
In his fifth game back since having an appendectomy, Andicevich matched a season high with 21 points, going 8-for-11 from the field and 5-for-5 on three-pointers. And it wasn't just the scoring that was impressive, it was the way Anticevich did it, displaying total confidence that he could score at any time and looking for his shot every time down court.
It was the offensive boost needed with leading scorer Matt Bradley out for the fifth straight game with an ankle injury.
The prime example of Anticevich's aggressiveness was his three-point bucket from the top of the key that gave Cal a 55-54 lead with 4:00 left in the game. He was going to take that shot no matter what, and he drilled it. Unfortunately for Cal, the Bears did not score again until Jarred Hyder scored with just 13.6 seconds left. By then UCLA (12-2, 8-0 Pac-12) had scored five straight points to take a four-point lead, which the Bears (7-9, 2-7 Pac-12) could not overcome.
"He was terrific on the offensive end," Cal coach Mark Fox said of Anticevich. "We just needed to give him a little more help, but Grant was certainly effective tonight."
No other Cal player scored more than eight points.
Anticevich agreed that he was particularly aggressive on the offensive end in this game.
"I feel I've worked hard and when [the coaches] have confidence in me to go out there and be aggressive, it helps me to be confident and go out there and just play uninhibited," Anticevich said.
Cal can take some solace in the fact that put itself in position to pull off a major upset. However, this was really a typical conference game for the Bruins, who have made a habit of winning close games.
Aside from a 20-point win over Cal on Dec. 6 and 30-point win over Washington State last Thursday, every other UCLA Pac-12 game has come down to the wire. All six of those games were either decided by five points or fewer or went into overtime. But every time UCLA makes the stops when it has to and gets good shots in the closing minutes.
A bucket in the lane by Cody Riley with 2:54 left put UCLA ahead by a point, and Jules Bernand sank an open three-point shot with 2:08 left to give the Bruins a safe four-point advantage.
Cal's inability to go score a point in that pivotal span of 3:47 following Anticevich's three-pointer that ultimately cost the Bears the game.
However, it was really two other factors that ruined the Bears -- Cal's inability to get to the foul line and UCLA's second-chance points.
UCLA made 5 of 6 free throws in the second half, while Cal did not attempt a single free throw after halftime.
"Our team needs to get to the free-throw line some," Fox said. "Especially with Matt out, we've got to get to the free-throw line to get some cheap points. And we didn't get there at all in the second half."
The other issue was UCLA's dominance of the offensive boards. UCLA's 38-23 advantage on the boards told part of the story. But the critical factor was that UCLA collected nine offensive boards, including eight in the second half, while Cal had just three offensive rebounds for the game. And none of Cal's offensive boards seemed to have the impact of UCLA's second chances.
The Bruins had eight second-chance points, and Cal had none.
"We didn't rebound the ball, and that really hurt us in the second half," Fox said.
The other statistics went pretty even. Cal had just 10 turnovers compared with 14 for the Bruins, and UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell had four turnovers to go along with his six assists and seven points.
Riley ended up leading the Bruins in scoring with 13 points, and the team shot 46.2 percent from the field. Cal shot 39.6 percent and 10-for-22 from beyond the three-point line. However, the Bears were just 3-for-10 from deep after going 7-for-12 from long range in the first half. That's a large part of the reason Cal led by six points in the closing seconds of the first half and took a four-point lead into halftime.
The second half was tight throughout until the final four minutes, when UCLA showed how it has won seven straight games.
**(It remains unclear whether Cal's Saturday night game against USC will be played as scheduled. It was still on as of Thursday night.)**
Cover photo by D. Ross Cameron, USA TODAY Sports
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