Williams, Huggins keep Fresno State rolling in win over Cal
The Bulldogs are also getting more production out of their big men to help make up for the loss of Taylor’s 18 points a game.
Blackwell had 13 points and career-highs of nine assists and seven rebounds and Fresno State won its sixth straight, beating California 95-73 on Wednesday night.
“Just being more of a leader and being better on the defensive end,” Blackwell said after his second start running the Bulldogs offense. “I feel like if I do that we have a good chance to win.”
Taylor, Fresno State’s second-leading scorer, was injured in practice earlier this month and could be sidelined up to four weeks.
The Bulldogs beat Cal Poly on Dec. 8 in their first game without Taylor, then backed it up with an emphatic win over the Golden Bears. It’s Fresno State’s second win in eight games against Cal.
“We settled down,” Bulldogs coach Justin Hutson said. “They came out and drove us, caught us on our heels. We didn’t panic. We were able to get on our run and settle down.”
Paris Austin tied his career-high with 20 points for California (4-6). Justice Sueing also had 20 while Andre Kelly scored 11.
“At the end of the first half is when we stopped sharing the ball and that’s where they made their run,” Bears coach Wyking Jones said. “It is concerning because that’s how we played at the beginning of the season. I would think that we would have learned at this point that we have to move the ball to be good.”
It’s the first time the two teams have played since Cal defeated Fresno State 65-57 on Nov. 30, 2014.
The difference this time was striking.
Playing for the first time in nearly two weeks, Fresno State (8-2) pulled away midway through the first half and led by as much as 25 while beating a Pac-12 team for the first time since 2016.
Cal played without 7-foot-3 center Connor Vanover, who is in concussion protocol after suffering a broken nose while going for a loose ball against Cal Poly on Saturday. Vanover had started each of the previous two games.
California: The Bears started off well enough but faded quickly and never recovered in their most lopsided defeat this season. The problems were wide-ranging, from a lack of ball security, little movement on offense and a lack of size inside that Fresno State took full advantage of. Grant Anticevich, pressed into duty with Vanover out, lost his cool in the first half and drew a technical foul that was symbolic of Cal’s night.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs have been on quite a roll since losing to Miami on Nov. 23 in the Wooden Legacy but they’ve looked particularly sharp lately. They’ve won their last three games by an average of 21.3 points and are getting balanced scoring. Huggins gave Fresno State a scare when he limped off the court in the second half but he returned to finish the game.
GET TO THE LINE
Fresno State repeatedly drove deep into the paint and were able to get to the foul line as a result. The Bulldogs held a 38-18 advantage in free throw attempts and made 29 of them.
Grimes did a lot of his scoring in the paint, including two spectacular dunks on alley-oop lob passes from Blackwell. Grimes had a thunderous one-hander late in the first half then added a more traditional two-hand dunk off Blackwell’s pass in the first minute of the second half.
AUSTIN PROVIDES SPARK
Austin had a quiet first half but gave Cal a much-needed lift in the second half. He scored 14 points after the break, including nine straight during one stretch. Austin also did a good job mixing it up and finding the open man when Fresno State’s defense collapsed.
California: The Bears return to Haas Pavilion to host San Jose State on Friday.
Fresno State: Hosts Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.