Saint Mary’s hot shooting proves too much for Cal

MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — California made its first visit to Saint Mary’s in three decades Saturday night, and the Gaels didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat.

Malik Fitts scored 19 points and Saint Mary’s rolled to an 84-71 victory over the Bears.

The Gaels (4-4) emphatically halted their four-game losing streak, shooting 60 percent from the field and dominating their neighbors from the Pac-12.

It was the first time since 1988 that Cal made the 14-mile trip to Moraga. Considering how this one played out, the Bears (2-4) may want to wait a while before returning.

“You can get beat down by losing,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “We haven’t had to deal with this for a while, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I’m most pleased that our guys kept believing and kept playing.”

Jordan Ford had 16 points and seven assists for Saint Mary’s, and Dan Fotu also scored 16. Justice Sueing led Cal with 16 points.

Saint Mary’s took control in the first 20 minutes, nailing six 3-pointers and entering the break with a 45-30 lead.

Tanner Krebs, who scored in double figures just twice in St. Mary’s first seven games, had 11 points in the first half, hitting 3 for 5 from beyond the arc.

Cal led 14-12 early, but Saint Mary’s clamped down defensively and the Bears found it increasingly difficult to get quality shots.

But Cal’s biggest issues came on the defensive end.

Ford, who entered as the West Coast Conference’s scoring leader at 23.1 points per game, didn’t need to carry the load offensively Saturday, as four Gaels finished in double figures and Saint Mary’s went 13 for 25 from the 3-point line.

“We got ourselves in a hole early, and a team like Saint Mary’s, it’s hard to come back on, especially in their house,” Sueing said. “We weren’t communicating enough on defense. That’s something we have to work on the next couple of days.”

BIG PICTURE

Cal: The Bears gave up too many open looks beyond the arc early on, and they don’t have the offensive firepower right now to overcome big first-half deficits.

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels put it all together on both ends of the floor, dominating a Pac-12 opponent and avoiding their first five-game losing streak since 2002.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Early in the second half, Saint Mary’s Jordan Hunter blocked a shot on one end and raced down to complete an alley-oop dunk on the other end to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

TURNING POINT

A 10-0 Saint Mary’s run midway through the first half included 3-pointers from Krebs and Fotu and put the Gaels in control.

HE SAID IT

Cal coach Wyking Jones: “They came in with a game plan that they’re gonna use their secondary scorers to beat us, and they did a very good job of that.”

STAT OF THE NIGHT

Cal totaled just six assists on the night, going a long way to explain what went wrong for the Bears. Saint Mary’s had 19 assists on 30 field goals.

UP NEXT

Cal hosts San Francisco on Wednesday night, its third consecutive game against a neighboring Bay Area program.

Saint Mary’s plays Tuesday night at home against Bethune-Cookman.

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