When Cal visits Ohio State next Sept. 15 to face coach Urban Meyer’s first team, the Bears will face a Buckeyes squad without the motivation of possibly playing in a bowl game. The NCAA handed down its sanctions on Tuesday and a one-year bowl ban was part of the deal.
Cal prepares for its game Friday at UNLV knowing its national reputation still needs a bit of mending because of a 92-53 loss to Missouri back on Nov. 22. For much of the country, that was the game that defines the 2011-12 Bears.
Maybe it’s not fair because it was just one game. But it was a gruesome game and it’s the one everyone was watching.
They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That’s not true in this instance. The Bears have the chance to alter their image Friday — and bring home that higher profile.
The Runnin’ Rebels are 12-2 and own wins over North Carolina and Illinois. They are good and people know it. If the Bears emerge with a victory on the eve of Christmas Eve, their stock rises.
Cal has regrouped since the Mizzou loss. The Bears are 6-1 over the past four weeks, losing only by one point on the road to a strong San Diego State team (in a game they should have won).
Their 70-50 win Monday over UC Santa Barbara – and the game wasn’t as close as the final score — was achieved with only 60 percent of their starting lineup available. Jorge Gutierrez (food poisoning) and Richard Solomon (stress fracture) were out and senior forward Harper Kamp played despite flu symptoms.
Cal has won its nine home games by an average margin of 23.8 points. None of them was closer than 16.
The Bears’ defense hasn’t allowed more than 64 points in any game other than Missouri, and is surrendering an average of just 51.6 points in 10 victories. In their past two games, they held two of the nation’s top four scorers — Weber State’s Damian Lillard and UCSB’s Orlando Johnson — each 13 points under their scoring average.
NBA scouts attending both games certainly noticed. It seems the computers also may have.
— The Bears are now No. 25 in the Sagarin ratings, despite a strength of schedule rating of 243.
— The Ken Pomeroy rankings have the Bears at No. 15.
— Cal is No. 62 according to RPI rankings published by CBSSports.com, but even that is a half-dozen slots better than a day ago.
Gutierrez and Kamp should both be healthy by Friday, and the Bears know they won’t have Solomon at least for one more game.
They demonstrated against UCSB that the whole can be stronger than its parts, even if some of the parts are absent. If they want their computer rating — and their national reputation — to continue climbing, they’ll need to play like that again vs. the Runnin’ Rebels when people are watching.
Here’s my game story on the Bears’ 70-50 rout of UC Santa Barbara, plus a slide show of photos from D. Ross Cameron.
A pretty good night around the Pac. Here’s what went on outside Berkeley . . .
– USC 83, TCU 59: This was a bit unexpected. The Trojans (5-7), who had averaged 49 points over the previous four games, scored 17 more points than they had in any game all season. Maurice Jones scored 25 points to lead four USC players in double figures. The Horned Frogs (7-4) had 20 turnovers to just four for the Trojans.
– Stanford 75, Bethune Cookman 56: The Cardinal (10-1) won easily, paced by 16 points from sophomore Anthony Brown. Josh Owens had 11 points and seven rebounds.
– Utah 72, Portland 67: Josh Watkins scored 26 points and the Utes (3-8) won their second straight game at the expense of the Pilots (3-9). Center Josh Washburn added 18 points and seven rebounds.
— Colorado 70, Cal State Bakersfield 64: The Buffaloes (6-4) got double-digit scoring from four players, including 18 points from sophomore Andre Roberson.
— Southern Miss 64, Arizona State 61: Darnell Dodson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted the Golden Eagles (9-2) past the Sun Devils (4-7). ASU led by nine at halftime, then rallied from an 11-point hole in the final 4 minutes to pull even. Sophomore guard Keala King had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Sun Devils
POST-GAME NOTES: Mike Montgomery confirmed that not only Gutierrez and Kamp were sick, but so was backup center Robert Thurman. All three spent Sunday night throwing up and went to the campus medical clinic. Kamp played 33 minutes anyway, contributing eight points and five rebounds. Montgomery said Smith played his best game with eight points and seven assists, and Kravish added seven points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots, one of them against 7-foot-3 Greg Somogyi. Cobbs was 10 for 12 from the field and did much of the defensive work against Orlando Johnson, whose 22.4 scoring average was reduced to a nine-point night on 4 for 13 from the field.
FINAL SCORE: Cal 70, UCSB 50. The Bears delivered an impressive and clutch performance without Jorge Gutierrez and Richard Solomon. Cobbs finished with 25 points, Crabbe had 19. Cal improved to 10-2 heading to its game Friday at No. 21 UNLV.
4:17 2nd H: Cal leads 68-44, equaling its biggest margin of the game. Cobbs has a career-high 25 points, the last three on a 35-foot heave as the shot clock was expiring. Crabbe has 17 points and six rebounds and Smith has eight points and six assists. Kamp has eight points and five rebounds — nice work considering his condition.
Former Oakland HS star Jabari Brown, who left Oregon two games into this season, will transfer to Missouri, his mother told ESPN.
Meanwhile . . .
— Cal’s next opponent, No. 21 UNLV, improved to 12-2 with an 81-63 win over the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. Chase Stanback hit 8 of 9 shots from 3-point range and scored 29 points as the Runnin’ Rebels improved to 8-0 at home.
— Former Cal guard Gary Franklin had six points and two assists for the second straight game, helping No. 6 Baylor (10-0) to a 95-54 win over Paul Quinn, which we believe plays in the Witness Protection League.
— UCLA forward Travis Wear, sidelined most of last week by a skin infection, practiced Monday and is expected to play Tuesday against UC Irvine.
— Richmond HS grad Wendell McKines had 20 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in New Mexico State’s 91-66 rout of Southern.
— NCAA scoring leader Damian Lillard (Oakland HS) rebounded from a season-low 14 points at Cal to score 28 points (to go with 12 rebounds), leading Weber State to a 106-57 win over Mayville State, a 122-year-old North Dakota university with 568 full-time students. Lillard is now seventh on WSU’s career scoring list.
Coach Mike Montgomery issued a statement this morning on the status of Richard Solomon, suggesting the sophomore forward could be back on the court in time for the Bears’ Dec. 29 Pac-12 opener against USC.
Solomon sustained a stress fracture or stress reaction to his left foot and will miss Monday night’s game against UC Santa Barbara and the Bears’ game Friday at UNLV. He will be evaluated in the meantime.
“Unfortunately, Richard will miss the next couple of games due to this injury,” said Montgomery. “We hope to have him back on the court, after Christmas, in time for the start of the Pac-12 season.”
Three nights after taking on the nation’s leading scorer, Jorge Gutierrez gets the chance to challenge a player ranked No. 4 on the list.
But beating UC Santa Barbara on Monday night at Haas Pavilion will require more than Gutierrez and the Bears slowing down senior G Orlando Johnson. The Gauchos (5-3) are a very capable squad, with losses to UNLV, San Diego State and Washington by a combined margin of just 14 points. They took SDSU into overtime and UNLV into double-OT.
Still, Johnson will be a handful. He scored 36 points in an overtime loss to UNLV and had five 30-point games a year ago. He has scored in double figures in 69 of 70 games he’s played for UCSB since transferring from Loyola Marymount after his freshman season.
At 6-foot-5, Johnson is three inches taller than Weber State’s Damian Lillard, and may not be as susceptible to physical defensive play. The 6-3 Gutierrez helped limit Lillard to a season-low 14 points on Friday night in the Bears’ 77-57 win.
Weber State coach Randy Rahe called Gutierrez “one of the best defenders in the country,” and Lillard didn’t argue that.
A hard-to-believe result in Seattle . . .
– South Dakota State 92, Washington 73: Nate Wolters had 34 points, seven assists, five assists and no turnovers, prompting UW coach Lorenzo Romar to suggest, “I haven’t seen a performance like that since Jason Kidd.” The Jackrabbits (10-4) snapped a 32-game non-conference home winning streak by the Huskies (5-5). Freshman Tony Wroten Jr. scored 23 points for UW, but star sophomore Terrence Ross scored just six points before fouling out.
– Oregon State 101, Portland State 68: Six players scored in double digits for the Beavers (9-2), led by 17 from Ahmad Starks and 15 points and eight assists from Jared Cunningham. OSU shot 13 for 21 from the 3-point line.
— Virginia 67, Oregon 54: The Cavaliers (9-1) handed the Ducks (6-3) their first home loss of the season. Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph came off the bench to score 16 points for Oregon, whose starters shot a combined 10 for 29.
– Washington State 66, Western Oregon 42: The Cougars (7-4) got points from 11 players, but no one scored double digits against the Division II visitors.
Cal sophomore forward Richard Solomon will miss about three weeks after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot.
Solomon, who averages 6.6 points and a team-best 6.9 rebounds, tweeted the news Sunday. “Stress fracture in my foot . . . this has not been my ideal year. Not at all what I expected.”
The Bears (9-2) play UC Santa Barbara (5-3) at Haas Pavilion on Monday night.
Expect freshman David Kravish to start in Solomon’s place.
Junior guard Brandon Smith said Solomon sat out practice Saturday because his foot was sore. He underwent an MRI and was told he has a stress fracture.
“It’s not too bad,” Smith said. “He’s going to be out just a few weeks. They don’t even have him in a boot.”
Solomon had 11 points in Cal’s 77-57 win over Weber State on Friday night in his return to the starting lineup. He had been suspended for two earlier games for “conduct contrary to athletic department and university values.”
Still awaiting an official comment from the Cal athletic department.