The easiest portion of the Golden Bears’ schedule is behind them. Well, that is, if you don’t count a pair of Pac-12 Conference games against Utah.
No more Austin Peay or Jackson State or McNeese State.
The final three games of the non-conference schedule get under way Friday night at Haas against a Weber State team that won its first six games. The Wildcats have dropped their past two games after losing their two starting forwards to injury.
Still, Weber features Oakland native Damian Lillard, the nation’s leading scorer. Went for 41 points against San Jose State. And will have friends and family in the stands to cheer him on. An intriguing matchup with Jorge Gutierrez looms.
The Bears then take on a very solid UC Santa Barbara squad on Monday night at Haas, before traveling to face a potent UNLV club on Friday, Dec. 23.
Cal needs these challenges before the start of Pac-12 play, and the Bears’ computer strength of schedule — a limp No. 266 — needs them, too. Perhaps even more.
In their first 10 games, the Bears (8-2) have played just three teams with a SOS rating better than No. 140. They beat Denver (No. 41) and lost to Missouri (15) and San Diego State (39). All those wins against San Jose State (281) and UC Irvine (241) won’t do them much good when it’s time for the NCAA tournament selection committee to pick and seed teams.
Winning all three of these games would provide the Bears a big lift and send them into the conference with the momentum of a five-game winning streak.
At the very least, Cal needs to win at least two of three. You figure this ought to be one of them.
ABOUT THE WILDCATS: Weber is led by junior guard Damian Lillard (Oakland HS), who leads the nation in scoring at 26.9 ppg and has averaged 38.5 points in two games this season against Bay Area schools San Jose State and Saint Mary’s . . . Lillard is ninth on WSUs career scoring list with 1,365 points and can jump to No. 7 with 18 points against the Bears . . . Injuries to the Wildcats’ two starting forwards have forced them to play a smaller lineup. Junior forward Frank Otis (McClymonds HS), a transfer from SMU, will miss his homecoming game after injuring his knee against BYU. Otis had 13 points and 17 rebounds in his Weber debut vs. Northern New Mexico. Also out is senior forward Kyle Bullinger (7.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg), who has missed two games with a dislocated right elbow. Bullinger is the second-leading rebounder in the Big Sky Conference.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 1-0. The Bears beat Weber 75-65 on Dec. 12, 1970 in San Francisco, despite a 27-point, 23-rebound performance by the Wildcats’ Willie Sojourner, who later played in the old American Basketball Association. While in the ABA, Sojourner was credited with giving Julius Erving his nickname of Dr. J, and also served as best man in Erving’s wedding. Sojourner died in a 2005 auto accident in Rieti, Italy, where he was a successful and popular player in the Italian pro league.
MISCELLANY: Cal leads the Pac-12 in 3-point accuracy (.430) and free-throw shooting (.745) . . . Cobbs leads the conference in 3-point shooting at .579 (11 for 19) . . . The Bears are off to a 7-0 start at home this season.
TIPOFF: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Haas Pavilion, Berkeley. Radio: 910-AM.
Cal (8-2, 0-0 Pac-12)
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||So.||15.8||5.8|
|PF Harper Kamp||6-8||Sr.||8.6||5.6|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||Fr.||5.1||5.5|
|SG Jorge Gutierrez||6-3||Sr.||12.9||5.0|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||So.||11.3||4.5*|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Jr.||5.4||2.9*|
|F Richard Solomon||6-10||So.||6.0||6.9|
|G Emerson Murray||6-3||So.||2.6||0.7|
Weber State (6-2, 0-0 Big Sky)
|SF Scott Bullinger||6-2||Jr.||13.3||3.8|
|PF Darin Mahoney||6-8||Sr.||3.8||4.8|
|C Kyle Tresnak||6-10||So.||10.8||3.0|
|SG Damian Lillard||6-3||Jr.||26.9||5.8|
|PG Joran Richardson||6-1||So.||3.9||2.0*|
|F Byron Fulton||6-7||So.||6.0||4.5|
|C James Hajek||6-10||Fr.||2.3||1.5|
|G Gelaun Wheelwright||6-1||Fr.||6.5||3.5|