Cal Basketball: Mark Fox on Victory Over No. 21 Colorado - 'The Best We've Played'

Jeff Faraudo

Cal beat a Top-25 team for the first time this season and resumed its winning ways at Haas Pavilion with a near wire-to-wire 76-62 victory over No. 21 Colorado in the annual Pete Newell Game on Thursday night.

“A terrific team brings out the best in you. I think Colorado has a really terrific team, a team we have unbelievable respect for. And it brought the best out in us, for sure, tonight," first-year Cal coach Mark Fox said. "They’re so sound, they’re so good on both ends of the court. That’s the best that we’ve played. I’m really proud of our team.” 

The Bears (12-16, 6-9 Pac-12) now have exceeded the victory totals of each of the past two seasons by four. They trailed just once, by two points for 30 seconds in the first half against a team that had beaten them five straight times. 

Cal, which improved to 11-5 at Haas after losing twice at home two weeks ago, had not beaten a Top-25 team since upsetting No. 25 Washington 76-73 last Feb. 28.

The Bears bounced back nicely from a 87-52 loss on Saturday at Washington, tightening their defense and making good decisions on offense. They had just eight turnovers, five under their season average.

Cal made the most of CU's 11 giveaways, scoring 21 points off turnovers.

Sophomore Matt Bradley scored 17 of his 26 points in the first half and Kareem South had his best game since December with 19 points. The two combined to shoot 7-for-11 on 3-pointers as the Bears converted 9-for-20 from deep.

Bradley's total tied his career high, set on Jan. 9 against Washington State. He also led the Bears with six rebounds.

Colorado coach Tad Boyle was disappointed in his defense, but impressed by Bradley. "We made Bradley look like a first-team all-league player," he said.

Paris Austin had a tough shooting night, but contributed 12 points.

Fox made a pair of lineup changes, giving freshmen forward Kuany Kuany and DJ Thorpe their first starting assignments because he was pleased with the way they continued to compete in a tough situation at Washington. Kuany scored 3 points in just under 10 minutes and Thorpe had 3 points and 3 rebounds in 16 minutes.

This won't help Colorado (21-8, 10-6), which is hoping to earn its first NCAA tournament bid in four years.

Point guard McKinley Wright IV, despite fighting foul trouble, led the Buffaloes with 18 points and  forward Tyler Bey had 13. CU shot just 6-for-29 on threes.

Cal closes its home schedule Saturday against Utah at 3 p.m.

PRE-GAME: Cal begins its final homestand of the season tonight when it faces No. 21 Colorado at Haas Pavilion.

The Bears (11-16, 5-9) come off a road split against the Washington schools, but the taste in their mouths is no doubt bitter after absorbing an 87-52 loss at UW.

Colorado (21-7, 10-5) is still in the chase for the Pac-12 title and is pursuing its first NCAA tournament bid since 2016.

Cal starting lineup: A couple changes with freshmen F  Kuany Kuany and F D.J. Thorpe each earning their first career starts. The rest of the starting five includes PG Paris Austin, G Matt Bradley and F Grant Anticevich.

Colorado starting lineup: PG McKinley Wright IV, G Shane Gatling, G  D'Shawn Schwartz, F Evan Batting, F Tyler Bey, 

The thread:

11:30 1st H: Cal jumped out to a 7-0 lead, aided by freshman Kuany Kuany's 3-point basket and is shooting 7-for-12 from the field. The Buffaloes went 2 1/2 minutes without scoring but have climbed back in by scoring the past five points. Kareem South and Colorado's Wright sharing scoring honors so far with six points apiece. Cal 15, Colorado 13.

7:37 1st H: Colorado took its first lead after Lucas Siewert hit back-to-back 3-pointers, but Matt Bradley answered with his second 3 of the night to put the Bears back on top. Bradley has eight points for the Bears and McKinley Wright IV has scored eight for the Buffs. Both teams shooting 10-for-16 from the field and 3-for-4 on 3's. Cal 24, Colorado 23.

3:55 1st H: Getting testy here at Haas. The refs whistled Colorado's Wright for charging into Bradley and CU coach Tad Boyle went semi-ballistic, drawing a technical foul. Bradley made both free throws, giving him 17 points already. He has scored the Bears' past 12, all of them in a span of 4 1/2 minutes. He is 4-for-4 on 3-pointers, and CU's Bey fouled him on one of them, creating a rare four-point play. The Buffs are actually shooting a hair better than Cal - 55 percent to 52 percent - but have six turnovers. Cal 33, Colorado 24.

HALFTIME: Cal 38, Colorado 26. A very nice first half by the Bears, who led 7-0 out of the gate and trailed just once, by two points for 30 seconds. Bradley has 17 points on 5-for-9 from the field, including 4-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Bears are 6-for-10 as a team on threes. The Bears shot 50 percent overall and had just three turnovers, always a good barometer for their offensive efficiency. Colorado shot well in the middle of the period, but finished the half at 44 percent, including 3-for-9 on 3's. Cal scored 12 points off CU's six turnovers. Cal's bench has provided a lift with 13 points.

18:35 2nd H: Bradley goes down hard on a drive and comes up holding his right elbow. Cal calls timeout and Bradley comes out. But 15 seconds later, he's back in. So, for now anyway, it appears he is OK. Cal 38, Colorado 30.

15:38 2nd H: The Bears have made just 1 of 7 shots to open the half and Colorado has trimmed the margin. Officials are giving away charge calls like they are door prizes. Bradley just got whistled for one, Minutes earlier, Wright picked up his third foul of the night - the second on a charge - and took a seat. He is the Buffs' most important player so we'll see how long he's out. Cal 41, Colorado 33.

11:45 2nd H: Bradley hit a long 2-pointer then made a difficult step-back, fade-away shot and the Bears rebuild their lead to double digits. Bradley now has 21 points. Rebounding was even at halftime, but the Buffs have built a 25-18 edge on the boards. Cal 47, Colorado 37.

8:59 2nd H: Cal has its biggest lead of the night after a wide-open 3-pointer by Kareem South, who has 14 points. Bradley hit his fifth of the night a few minutes ago, tying his career high. With 24 points, he has his 10th 20-point performance of the season and is breathing on his career-high of 26 points vs. Washington State back on Jan. 9. Cal 56, Colorado 40.

5:01 2nd H: A layup by Kelly and another 3-pointer by South (who has 17 points) has strengthened Cal's hold on the game. The Bears are 9-for-18 on 3's. Cal 64, Colorado 48.