Bears break Bulldogs’ undefeated record in the regular season

Fresno State guard Destin Whitaker gets blocked against Cal on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, at Haas Pavilion Stadium. (Jesús Cano/The Collegian)

The Fresno State men’s basketball team was looking to continue its undefeated season against Cal Sunday night.

The ‘Dogs hadn’t started the year off with a 5-0 record since the 2015-2016 season. Increasing the streak to six would be a first for the team since 2006. 

The team was riding on the momentum of winning the 2021 Venue Twin Southern California Surf Division Championship, where forward Orlando Robinson won the MVP.

But the Bears were able to end the Bulldogs’ hot streak on Nov. 28 at Haas Pavilion with a 65-57 win. 

“It was a game of mistakes,” head coach Justin Hutson said. “On both ends of the floor, timely mistakes. When we needed a stop, we made some mistakes, and when we wanted to score, we made some mistakes.”

Cal capitalized on its height advantage against Fresno State, starting off well by winning the tipoff. Bears’ forward Andre Kelly had a one-on-one battle with Robinson in the first half, with Kelly scoring 10 points, making 5-for-5 of his shots from the post. 

Robinson responded with 7 points and was able to get a couple of blocks on Kelly – but he wasn’t the only big facilitator for the Bears. Cal forward Grant Anticevich took advantage of a court filled with Bulldog guards. He finished the first half with 7 points himself, shooting 3-for-4 from the field.

“I knew I had to guard [Kelly] one-on-one, but I didn’t expect them guarding me one-on-one,” Robinson said. “Usually, most teams want to double-team me. Like, limit my chances altogether. They pressured me, and I knew it was coming. Battling him was cool, but I knew that I needed to be aggressive for my team to win.”

The Bears started the game with a 7-0 run, leaving the ‘Dogs scoreless in the first three minutes of the game. Robinson was able to put points on the board for Fresno State with a baseline jump shot, but Kelly answered back with a post hook over Robinson that the Bulldogs couldn’t counter, as they turned over the ball.

Turnovers seem to be a crutch for the ‘Dogs, as they average 12.2 turnovers per game. 

“Us not falling in our offense and being too thirsty, starting with me, is a big part of [the turnovers],” Robinson said.

Kelly used the extra possession to score another 2 points from the post. With 16 minutes left in the first half, Cal led Fresno State 11-2. 

But Robinson’s defensive efforts sparked a 7-2 run for the Dogs. He blocked a dunk attempt, leading to a layup in transition by Bulldog Leo Colimerio. Robinson created an offensive play again with another block in the paint, giving guard Jordan Campbell an additional layup on the fastbreak.

The energy shifted for Fresno State with around 14 minutes left of the game when Campbell was scratched in the eye and unable to return for the rest of the game. With an offensive spark like Campbell gone, the ‘Dogs found themselves in a dry spell, relying on Robinson’s post scoring.

By halftime, Cal was leading Fresno State 28-21.

“We didn’t do a good enough job moving the ball around and spacing it to break down that defense. And we’ve had some pretty good looks earlier in the game that didn’t fall, and we’ve got to be able to overcome that and generate better shots in the second half,” Hutson said.

In the second half, both teams went back and forth. Cal blocked Fresno State’s first possession, but Robinson got a block of his own in the following play. Robinson then made a free throw and got an assist to teammate Isaiah Hill from 3. 

Fresno State was able to tie it at 37 with around 10 minutes left, and tied it again at 40, but both times Cal regained the lead with 3-pointers. That second tie was the last time the ‘Dogs would get close to the Bears.

Despite the height advantage, Cal continued to abuse Fresno State’s poor perimeter defense. Cal shot 44% from 3 and 47% from the field. With Fresno State allowing this team known for strong shooters to warm up, the 3s began to get out of hand in the final minutes of the game. 

Fresno State still had hope, down single digits with 2 minutes left. But the Bears drew the ‘Dogs into the post, leaving a wide-open shooter to hit the dagger 3 in the corner. A couple plays later Robinson put pressure from the wing, almost forcing a shot-clock violation. 

The ball was nearly deflected, but a Bears guard caught it before it crossed the line. Cal threw it up in the final second and swished the 3, making the stadium go wild. With Fresno State long since having lost control of the game, the Bears ended as winners.

Robinson and Hill were the only ‘Dogs to score in double digits. Robinson led with 25 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Hill followed with 10 points and three rebounds. 

“We’re 5-1 and we have another game Wednesday… they’ll [the players] bounce back,” Hutson said. 

Fresno State guard Leo Colimerio drives to the basket against Cal on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, at Haas Pavilion Stadium. (Jesús Cano/The Collegian)
Fresno State guard Isaiah Hill was one of only two players to score double digits with 10 points against Cal on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, at Haas Pavilion Stadium. (Jesús Cano/The Collegian)
Fresno State forward led the team in scoring with 25 points against Cal on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, at Haas Pavilion Stadium. (Jesús Cano/The Collegian)
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