BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Malik Fitts got Saint Mary's rolling early with his perimeter shooting. Jordan Ford kept the Gaels going after California cut their double-digit lead in half.
Ford scored 32 points, including 13 straight late in the second half, and the Gaels beat California 89-77 on Saturday night.
Fitts had a season-high 28 points on 9-of-12 shooting and matched his career high with five 3-pointers for Saint Mary's (10-2).
“It’s kind of like a pick your poison type of deal,” Ford said. “One of us is probably gonna have a good game. Hopefully both of us. When I come off a pick-and-roll they’re kind of not sure who to guard, playing with that throwback to Malik is always fun.”
Dan Fotu added seven points and nine rebounds as the Gaels beat the Golden Bears for the third time in three years. The two San Francisco Bay Area schools are within 14 miles of each other.
Six days after falling to No. 14 Dayton to snap an eight-game winning streak, Saint Mary’s pulled away in the first half behind Fitts’ hot hand then held on late behind Ford after California closed a 19-point deficit to as little as eight.
Fitts made his first five 3-pointers and had 21 points in the first 20 minutes as the Gaels pulled away and led by 17 before halftime. The 21 points by Fitts matched his total in the loss to Dayton.
“When you give a great shooter a wide open shot it’s going to go in, and we gave him some wide open shots,” California coach Mark Fox said. “Our lack of poise late in the first half cost us. Those guys have played a lot of games and their experience showed.”
Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said the 1-2 scoring punch of Fitts and Ford was pivotal on a night when no other Gaels player reached double figures.
“It was a good win for us,” Bennett said. “We had two guys that went off. Had we not had one of those guys go off I don’t know if we would have separated like that.”
Andre Kelly had a career-high 26 points for the Bears (6-5). Matt Bradley added 14 points and Grant Anticevich scored 11.
California’s loss ended its eight-game home winning streak dating to last season.
“When we had hard time scoring in the first half we let that frustration go to the other end,” Fox said. “We made some serious mental errors which allowed open shots against a great 3-point shooting team, and they’ll make you pay. And Saint Mary’s did.”
Saint Mary’s made five consecutive 3s during one stretch in the first half, three by Fitts and two from Alex Ducas.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels have responded to both of their losses this season with blowout wins, the type of resiliency that Bennett wants from his team. Fitts is helping alleviate some of the pressure off Ford’s shoulders, and his early scoring helped Saint Mary’s set the tone. The Gaels will need to get more scoring from the rest of the team once they get into conference play but for now, the Fitts-Ford tandem is doing pretty well.
California: The Bears didn’t get many calls to fall their way and it led to Fox being whistled for a technical foul early in the second half. Kelly’s scoring was big and kept California within striking distance in the second half. That was big on a night when leading scorer Matt Bradley had an off night shooting.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels play host to Arizona State on Wednesday.
California: Plays against Boston College in the Al Attles Classic in San Francisco on Dec. 21.