Cal’s mandate in its Pac-12 opener at Haas Pavilion on Thursday evening vs. USC: Score 67 points.
Only once so far this season have the Trojans topped more than 66, and if the Bears can get the tempo where they want it, they should prevail.
Of course, USC works hard to slow the pace, keep the scoring down . . . make it ugly.
The Trojans allow a conference-low 56.0 points per game . . . but they also are last in scoring at 55.8. Three times they have scored 41 points or fewer.
Cal is expected to play once more without sophomore forward Richard Solomon, who has missed the past two games with a stress reaction in his foot. Even without him, the Bears’ depth won’t be the issue because USC doesn’t have many bodies, either.
Patience will be critical. USC extends possessions at both ends of the floor, and therefore reduces the number of them. So Cal cannot afford to be careless with the ball and give away opportunities.
USC coach Kevin O’Neill is plenty worried about this weekend’s trip to the Bay Area, where Cal and Stanford have a combined home record of 15-1.
“To me, it looks like Stanford and Cal might be the two best teams. But who knows?” O’Neill said, when asked to assess the conference race. “ I know we’re going to get better as the year goes on. It’s just going to take a little time.”
ABOUT THE TROJANS: Maurice Jones, a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard, is the Trojans’ primary threat. He averages 14.9 points and 39.1 minutes per game. Jones scored 22 and made 5 of 6 3-point shots last season when the Trojans beat Cal 78-75 in Berkeley. He has help this season in 6-6 junior forward Aaron Fuller, a transfer from Iowa. The Trojans’ most intriguing player is 7-foot sophomore Dewayne Dedmon, a basketball neophyte who O’Neill believes will become a first-round NBA draft pick. Dedmon overcame basically the same injury that has sidelined Solomon, missing just one game as a result. He has scored double figures four times and blocked two or more shots in five games.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 129-120. USC took two of three meetings last season, including a 70-56 win at the Pac-10 tournament.
MISCELLANY: Cal sophomore Justin Cobbs leads the Pac-12 in 3-point accuracy at 65.3 percnt (15 for 23) . . . Cal is first in the conference in FT accuracy (75.0 percent) and USC is last (61.0).
TIPOFF: 6 p.m. Thursday at Haas Pavilion, Berkeley. TV: CSNCA. Radio: 910-AM.
Cal (10-3, 0-0 Pac-12)
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||So.||15.8||5.8|
|PF Harper Kamp||6-8||Sr.||9.0||5.8|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||Fr.||5.5||6.3|
|SG Jorge Gutierrez||6-3||Sr.||13.8||5.1|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||So.||12.6||4.5*|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Jr.||5.0||3.3*|
|G Emerson Murray||6-2||So.||1.9||0.8|
|F Bak Bak||6-8||Jr.||2.2||1.5|
USC (5-8, 0-0 Pac-12)
|PF Dewayne Dedmon||7-0||So.||7.0||5.5|
|SF Aaron Fuller||6-6||Jr.||11.9||6.8|
|SG Alexis Moore||6-2||Fr.||5.8||1.6|
|SG Byron Wesley||6-5||Fr.||6.4||4.5|
|PG Maurice Jones||5-7||So.||14.9||3.8*|
|F Garrett Jackson||6-7||So.||4.4||2.1|
|G Greg Allen||6-3||Jr.||3.2||1.0|
|C James Blasczyk||7-1||Jr.||2.2||2.3|