TIPOFF: 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle. TV: None. Radio: 910-AM.
The snowy/rainy Seattle weather . . . Terrence Ross . . . the Alaska Airlines Arena crowd . . . UW’s pressure defense and offensive rebounding prowess . . . all that wasn’t enough of a challenge for the Bears in their showdown with Washington for first place in the Pac-12.
Instead, they add one more obstacle to their task Thursday evening: Playing without sophomore forward and sixth man Richard Solomon, ruled academically ineligible for the remainder of the season.
The Bears will miss Solomon’s rebounding and his athletic ability. And a team with very little depth has even less.
Cal does get back junior guard Brandon Smith, who has been cleared to play after missing the past three games with a concussion he suffered on Jan. 5 at Oregon State.
Smith’s return for this game is particularly timely because the Huskies — also short-handed with C.J. Wilcox likely sidelined — are a guard-oriented team with great quickness.
Long-term, however, the Bears will be stretched without Solomon. Robert Thurman, Bak Bak and perhaps even freshman Christian Behrens will need to contribute more up front. So will guard Emerson Murray, coming off a career-high 10-point performance against Utah.
Redshirt freshman wing Alex Rossi is on the trip. Can he make a difference? Unlikely, after missing a season-and-a-half, but we may get the chance to find out.
One thing seems clear, barring injury, freshman forward David Kravish is in the starting lineup to stay this season.
In this one, the assignment involves surviving the Huskies’ shooters, their enthusiastic student section, their ability to corral 14.6 offensive rebounds per game and their pressure defense.
ABOUT THE HUSKIES: Coach Lorenzo Romar said sophomore sixth man C.J. Wilcox (stress fracture of hip) is “very, very doubtful” to play, but he stopped short of ruling him out. Wilcox sat out Sunday’s win over Washington State and is expected to miss both games this weekend . . . Without him, UW has almost no depth. The starting backcourt trio of Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten Jr., and Abdul Gaddy played 110 of 120 minutes against WSU. Senior F Darnell Gant is a former starter, but freshman G Hikeem Stewart has scored just seven points all season and he may be the second man off the bench . . . Cal coach Mike Montgomery said freshman Wroten is probably the best penetrator in the Pac-12. He’s certainly not a great threat from the perimeter, shooting just 20 percent (6 for 30) from the 3-point arc . . . Sophomore Ross is coming off a 30-point, 14-rebound performance in the win over WSU in which he scored 26 second-half points . . . 7-foot junior C Aziz N’Diaye has 23 of the Huskies’ 81 blocked shots.
UW dominated Cal last season, totaling 201 points in two decisive wins. With the Huskies’ best teams in recent seasons, it always started with defense. But guards Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton are gone from a year ago, and coach Lorenzo Romar said his team misses their defensive aggressiveness. “We are not there at all — only in spurts – even in our last game, put together some really good defensive possessions to allow us to come back — after that we didn’t defend the way we should have,” Romar said of UW’s win over rival Washington State. “We need defensive playmakers to be consistent — if we have several of those guys then we’ll become a consistent defensive team. We haven’t had that as an identity yet and really understand how important that is yet.”
ROMAR ON CAL: “Cal doesn’t put a player in their starting lineup who can’t do something offensively. They’re the most efficient offensive team in our league. When you watch them how they’re clicking offensively, how they have such great spacing, moving the basketball, everybody’s contributing. They also play really good defense. Right now they’re the most efficient offensive and defensive team in our conference.”
THE SERIES: 77-77. Washington has won the past three meetings, including 109-77 at Seattle last year.
MISCELLANY: UW coach Lorenzo Romar needs one victory to reach 100 in conference play and 300 overall for his career . . . Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs have combined to shoot 45.7 percent from the 3-point arc . . . Crabbe needs one 3-pointer to reach 100 for his career . . . Washington ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense at 73.1 ppg.
Cal (15-4, 5-1 Pac-12)
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||So.||15.7||5.7|
|PF Harper Kamp||6-8||Sr.||9.4||5.1|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||Fr.||5.7||5.6|
|SG Jorge Gutierrez||6-3||Sr.||14.3||4.8|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||So.||12.9||4.9*|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Jr.||4.1||3.2*|
|G Emerson Murray||6-2||So.||2.1||0.8|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Jr.||2.4||1.3|
Washington (11-6, 4-1 Pac-12)
|C Aziz N’Diaye||7-0||Jr.||8.2||7.9|
|SF Desmond Simmons||6-7||Fr.||5.7||6.4|
|SG Tony Wroten Jr.||6-5||Fr.||16.8||3.4*|
|SG Terrence Ross||6-6||So.||15.1||3.5|
|PG Abdul Gaddy||6-3||Jr.||8.6||4.8*|
|F Darnell Gant||6-8||Sr.||7.6||4.9|
|G C.J. Wilcox||6-5||So.||15.5||3.5|
|G Hikeem Stewart||6-2||Fr.||0.6||0.3|