Cal Basketball: Mark Fox Shares Pre-Game Thoughts as Bears Brace for Bruins

Fox touches on Bradley, Anticevich, Brown, Kelly and the Bruins' great balance
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Cal coach Mark Bradley met with reporters on a teleconference call Wednesday afternoon as the Bears finalized preparations for tonight’s game against No. 24 UCLA at Haas Pavilion.

The Bears (7-8, 2-6 Pac-12) and Bruins (11-2, 7-0) tip off at 6 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPNU. Here's our full game preview.

Highlights of our conversation with Fox:

-- On junior Matt Bradley, the team’s leading scorer, who will miss his fifth straight game with a left ankle injury: 

“Matt continues to rehab. He did not play in 5-on-5 today (Wednesday). Obviously, got a little ways to go. We take it day by day.”

-- On the Bears going 4-2 without him, including two games Bradley missed in December with an injury to his right ankle, and how things were further impacted when senior forward Grant Anticevich was out after an emergency appendectomy: 

“The hard thing was when we didn’t have both he and Grant. You take away your two top scorers and it was obviously a big adjustment. Whenever you have key players go out it’s an adjustment. We found a way to win when Matt was out, but life’s better with him.”

-- His reaction to Anticevich contributing 14 points to Cal’s win at Utah on Saturday in his fourth game back after Dec. 17 surgery: 

“The effects of what he went through physically, we knew it would take him a while to just to heal. But the loss of weight, the loss of strength, the loss of timing, the loss of conditioning — all the things that were subsequent to the actual surgery — to recover those things, that didn’t happen overnight. For him to finally look like Grant again, I felt like it lifted our entire team. `OK, we’re going to start looking like ourselves again.’ But I was really happy for him because it’s been a hard month for Grant.”

-- On how difficult is it to defend UCLA, which has five double-figure scorers?

“They have so many weapons. And sadly they’re all going to be back (next season). They have scoring every place. A lot of teams will have talented players, but not every team also has a great point guard. When you look at UCLA, obviously (Tyger) Campbell is able to make everybody better. They have such a balanced scoring attack and they can hit you from everywhere. It is different than most teams.”

-- On whether the Bruins are a different team than the one that beat Cal 76-56 in early December after a season-ending injury to Chris Smith but the arrival of Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang

“They’re a better team than they were a month ago. Hopefully, we’re a better team when we’re whole. Our lack of continuity has probably affected our growth. As much attention as their offense is getting, they can beat you with their defense, too. They’re as complete a team as we have in the league right now.”

-- On sophomore point guard Joel Brown, who came off the bench for the first time in 11 games at Utah, but still contributed five points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals, and his role in trying to limit Campbell: 

“Joel has had some really good moments. We’ve asked him to do so much in the face of all these injuries. He’s had to play about three different positions. In light of all of that, he’s still been able to play pretty well. We need him to play well. Tyger Campbell’s an important part of their team, but it’s not like you can just cut the head off the snake. Joel’s play is going to be important.”

-- On the improved consistency of junior forward Andre Kelly, who is averaging 14.4 points and shooting 76 percent over the past five games: 

“I’ve really been pleased with Andre. Andre’s in good physical shape. When he’s in good shape, he’s really productive. He’s been very consistent. He’s very confident and comfortable in how we’re playing offensively and where he can get his looks him. I think he’s a guy who can take it up another notch.”