Cal Men's Basketball posts 92-58 exhibition victory over Cal State LA

Grant Anticevich scored 23 points to lead the Bears

Let’s get one thing out of the way: on Monday night at Haas Pavilion, the California Golden Bears men’s basketball team played an exhibition against a Division II squad. No one will mistake the Cal State Los Angeles Golden Eagles for Gonzaga, but this matchup gave the Bears an opportunity to put 14 different players on the floor for at least a couple of minutes. From my perspective, the most exciting aspect of the night was getting to see a few newcomers demonstrate their abilities, albeit in a relatively low-pressure setting. In the end, Cal shot 62 percent and cruised to a 92-58 victory.

The Golden Eagles were led by 13 points from Adrease Jackson, while Wesley Harris Jr. scored 11 off the bench. In my opinion, the most memorable name on the team was Sean Estes, who should not be confused with the former Giants pitcher.

I joked with a couple of other writers that the first half proved that Grant Anticevich still knows how to play hoops. The Australian wing shot a surgical 10-for-12 overall and 3-for-5 from long range in only 17 minutes. 19 of his 23 points came in the first 20 minutes of action. He utilized a finger roll layup, fadeaway, pull-up jumper and 3-point dagger with great effectiveness. 

Quite frankly, the Bears need Anticevich to be excellent this season especially in conference play. The departure of Matt Bradley to San Diego State means that multiple players will need to step forward to replace his production. While Cal gets to face UC San Diego in the home opener next week, Pac-12 play will feature the likes of top-25 teams UCLA and Oregon. There will be very little margin for error in those encounters.

Similarly, Andre Kelly enjoyed some easy looks inside and ended up 8-for-10 from the floor. The senior from Stockton posted 17 points, five assists and two steals in 21 minutes but did not register a rebound. Kelly won’t always be able to get to the hoop so easily, but fans in attendance could certainly recognize him playing to his strengths.  He also ran the floor with aplomb, at one point going coast to coast for a layup while drawing a foul in the process. Joel Brown ended up with seven points, seven assists, three rebounds and three steals. Perhaps his most memorable play happened to involve Kelly.

Jordan Shepherd, a graduate transfer who last attended UNC Charlotte, received 21 minutes as well. He struggled in the early going, missing all four of his attempts from behind the arc and getting on the board only because of a trip to the foul line. He looked a bit more confident in the second stanza where he shot 4-for-4 from the field including one made triple, pushing his point total to 11. Shepherd figured into the starting lineup alongside Anticevich, Kelly, Brown and Kuany Kuany. The guard from Asheville averaged 14 points and four assists per game in his finest season of 2019-20 but was streaky from downtown, shooting 29 percent on threes.

With Monty Bowser, DJ Thorpe and Marsalis Roberson all out with injuries, freshman Sam Alajiki saw 18 minutes of action. He scored only five points but led the team with five rebounds and despite shooting 2-for-7 managed to bury a late 3-pointer to give him some confidence going forward. The forward who previously lived in Ireland possesses a 7’2” wingspan and a 41-inch vertical jump and his big body could be an asset down the line for Mark Fox.

Kuany has always felt like a bit of an enigma, especially because his shooting range tends to be inconsistent. He had a fairly passive offensive role in this one, playing 15 minutes and scoring three of his five points at the charity stripe. However, Kuany did show off his defensive ability with a massive block of a shot hoisted by Kyjuan Cannady in the waning minutes of the first half.

In a similar vein, Lars Thiemann has shown flashes of promise, but consistency has often been lacking. It can be hard to tell when facing this level of competition, but Thiemann looked like he had been hard at work in the offseason. Despite appearing in 16 minutes, he made all three attempts from the field and finished 4-for-4 at the free-throw line despite a career mark on foul shots hovering around 50 percent. Thiemann chipped in with four rebounds and a swat as well.

It was also nice to see Makale Foreman in midseason form. The former Stony Brook standout went 3-for-6 from behind the arc and gave fans a reminder of his buzzer-beating shot against USF last December. Jalen Celestine did a good job filling the stat sheet in his 10 minutes, compiling three assists, two steals and a block while also converting a three-point play. Four-star recruit and freshman Obinna Anyanwu grabbed two boards but was otherwise fairly quiet during 15 minutes. Dimitris Klonaras also had a pair of rebounds and dropped a dime while playing five minutes. Blake Welle and Logan Alters also had cameos in the blowout.

The Bears shot 43 percent from the field as a team last season, so obviously a 62 percent clip is not sustainable against better talent. The Golden Eagles also handed Cal a lot of offensive opportunities with a whopping 27 turnovers while the Bears committed 15. Nevertheless, Cal executed reasonably well and signs of rust were mostly limited to the occasional traveling violation or sloppy foul. It was not incredibly encouraging for the Bears to end with just a slight edge in rebounding with 28 boards compared to 26 for the visitors. At the same time, Cal did lead 49-29 at the half and deployed a much deeper bench than you would expect in a more challenging contest.