BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Matt Bradley spent a long stretch of the first half on the bench after picking up his second foul. A halftime talk from California coach Mark Fox and a few encouraging words from a few of his teammates helped Bradley turn things around.
Bradley scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half, and California won in Fox's debut with the Golden Bears, beating Pepperdine 87-71 on Tuesday night in the season opener for both teams.
Andre Kelly had 16 points and 10 rebounds while Kareem South scored 14 as Cal won its opener for the first time since 2016.
"I'm really proud of these young guys for buying into our vision," Fox said. "When you demand that much of somebody as a coach it needs to work out so they'll do it again and do it some more. The players made all the plays and these kids deserve a lot of credit."
Colbey Ross had 19 points and seven assists for Pepperdine. The Waves have not beaten a Pac-12 team since 2012.
Cal trailed at halftime and was down 49-46 early in the second before Bradley and Paris Austin sparked a big run that put the Bears ahead for good.
Austin scored on a pair of driving layups and two free throws, and Bradley made back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 17-0 run. Austin finished with 14 points.
Bradley shot 8 of 11 and made five 3s.
"The first half I was in foul trouble and my teammates were telling to just come out there and set an example," Bradley said. "When I came back in the second half it was second nature. I wasn't really thinking much, I was just playing and felt really good."
Fox, who spent nine years at Georgia before taking last season off, took over after Wyking Jones was fired following two disappointing seasons.
The Bears new coach praised Bradley for how he played in the second half.
"I talked with him at the half about why I sat him," Fox said. "I said, 'Now you're not in foul trouble. You can go and be aggressive and just play like you've practiced.' And to his credit he did just that."
Cal is 3-0 all-time against Pepperdine.
Ross took a hard fall in the first half but got up to rally the Waves to a halftime lead. Pepperdine's leading scorer last year as a sophomore when he was first-team All-West Coast Conference, Ross scored his team's last 11 points including a pair of 3s and a three-point play.
Pepperdine: Lorenzo Romar's team gave the Bears some trouble early but eventually wore down. Still, the Waves have a good core of players led by Ross that should keep them in the mix in the WCC. Pepperdine needs to work on its consistency, as the Waves shot only 37.1 percent.
California: The Bears will have to lean on experienced player like Bradley, Austin and Kelly until the younger players get comfortable, and it played out that way against Pepperdine. The trio stabilized the offense when it was misfiring early and made key buckets to help Cal pull away. That helped the Fox era begin with a win and that's always a positive, especially for a team that has finished last in the Pac-12 the past two seasons and is picked to do so again this year. . Bradley was charged with a Flagrant 1 foul in the first half.
Pepperdine: Hosts Irvine on Saturday in the first game between the two teams since 2013. The Waves have won three straight against the Anteaters.
California: Hosts UNLV on Nov. 12. The Runnin' Rebels lead the all-time series 5-2.
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