BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - California is figuring out a way to finish, an issue the Golden Bears struggled with all last season.
It’s only resulted in a handful of wins for coach Wyking Jones team but it’s a definite step in the right direction.
Matt Bradley scored 11 of his season-high 18 points in the final 6½ minutes and California pulled away to beat Santa Clara 78-66 on Monday night.
Juhwan Harris-Dyson had 12 points including a soaring one-handed dunk late in the second half for Cal. Justice Sueing added 11 points and six rebounds. Andre Kelly scored 13.
“I felt like we grew up today,” Jones said. “It comes in those guys trusting each other and having each other’s back. Just being able to withstand them cutting it to one and still being able to make plays and make a run and get stops when we needed it.”
Coming off back-to-back losses to St. John’s and Temple in the Legends Classic, the Golden Bears (2-3) jumped out to an early double-digit lead then had to hold on after the Broncos made a late push.
Bradley’s scoring down the stretch made the difference in the first meeting between the two Northern California schools since 2006.
After Trey Wertz made a 3-pointer to pull Santa Clara within 59-55, Bradley made a layup to start a 13-3 run. Bradley also had a 3-pointer and scored on consecutive layups, and Harris-Dyson followed with his dunk to make it 72-58.
“From the sideline I saw they’re a really good defensive team, but they were kind of soft getting to the rim,” Bradley said. “Juhwan was getting to the rim really well. I felt like that’s what I needed to add to, and they were sagging off us. That little stretch I kind of zoned out and played hard.”
Wertz scored 16 points for Santa Clara (1-5). Tahj Eaddy and Josip Vrankic had 12 points apiece.
Darius McNeill got the Bears going early with consecutive steals leading to a pair of fastbreak layups. Sueing added a pair of free throws and a thunderous one-handed dunk off a feed from Paris Austin that put Cal up 21-5.
Sueing had another dunk early in the second half and made a 3 that pushed the Bears lead to 40-25.
Santa Clara got off to a sluggish start. The Broncos had seven turnovers in the first seven minutes and didn’t score until Vrankic’s layup with 12:15 left in the first half.
“We didn’t play very well in the first half,” Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek said. “Cal did a good job of taking us out of what we wanted to do.”
Santa Clara: The Broncos showed some grit in coming back after being down by 16 in the first half, but they continue to sputter offensively, a trend that’s followed Herb Sendek’s team since losing leading scorer KJ Feagin to a broken left hand on Nov. 15. Santa Clara outrebounded Cal 33-24 but committed 22 turnovers.
California: It wasn’t easy, as nothing seems to be for coach Wyking Jones’ team. The Bears needed Bradley’s late lift to scrape by against a team it dominated the entire first half. Kelly is finding his rhythm. As the Bears search for a collective vibe, Kelly’s work down low will be key.
A year after losing more than 15 pounds as a result of an illness, Harris-Dyson had one of the best games of his career. He made seven of eight shots and added three rebounds and four steals.
“He was spectacular,” Jones said. “It was what we’ve been waiting to see from him. Defensively he was a beast. Really, really good to see him back in form and give us a spark off the bench.”
Santa Clara: The Broncos return to Leavey Center for the start of a seven-game homestand beginning Thursday against Jackson State.
California: The Bears will take a short 20-minute trip to St. Mary’s where they’ll play the Gaels for the second consecutive year. The two teams will play again at Haas Pavilion in 2019.
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