TIPOFF: 3 p.m. Saturday at Friel Court in Pullman, Wash. TV: None. Radio: 910-AM.
Off to its best start (overall and in Pac-12 play) since 2002-03, the Bears (16-4, 6-1 Pac-12) seek their third straight conference road win when they take on apparently dangerous Washington State (10-8, 2-4).
Cal survived two tricky travel legs sandwiched around a 69-66 win at Washington on Thursday night.
The Bears got the contributions they expect from Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Harper Kamp and Justin Cobbs, plus the game of his life from junior walk-on Robert Thurman, who had 16 points and seven rebounds.
Several challenges against the Cougars:
— Get bench production to augment when the starters provide. Mike Montgomery used just seven players at UW, so they collected heavy mileage and will need support against WSU.
— Cool off Faisal Aden. The senior guard scored a career-high 33 points against Stanford as the Cougars rallied from a double-digit hole in the second half. Sounds like a job for Gutierrez.
— Neutralize forward Brock Motum. The 6-foot-10 Aussie is the Cougars’ top scorer and rebounder and had 19 points against Cal in WSU’s win at Pullman.
This is a game the Bears should win. You want to win the Pac-12 title, you have to beat a second-division opponent on their home floor.
Plus, a victory in this one sends the team back to Berkeley riding a season-high five-game win streak with home games looming against Stanford and the Arizona schools.
ABOUT THE COUGARS: WSU comes off an 81-69 upset of Stanford in which it outscored the Cardinal 42-20 over the final 14-plus minutes. Easily the Cougs’ best win of the season, and snapped a three-game losing streak . . . Motum has scored in double digits 16 times in 18 games and is one of the most improved players in the conference . . . Aden, the team’s sixth man, had a career-high 33 points vs. Stanford, including 13 for 13 from the FT line. He had attempted just 27 free throws in 14 previous games . . . WSU’s game Thursday was its first in Pullman since Dec. 18 vs. Western Oregon. For marketing/financial reasons, the school moved Pac-12 home games against the Oregon schools on Dec. 29-31 to Spokane, Wash., during winter break.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 73-46. The teams split last year, each winning at home. Allen Crabbe scored 30 for the Bears in an 88-81 overtime victory at Berkeley. Crabbe did not play in the rematch at Pullman, two days after sustaining a concussion against Washington.
MISCELLANY: Cal climbed to No. 27 in the RealTimeRPI ratings on Friday . . . Defense certainly has been the best yardstick for Cal’s success/failure. The Bears are allowing just 53.4 points in their 16 wins, 83.3 points in their four defeats . . . Cal has won four games in a row for the third time this season . . . The Bears still are shooting better than 40 percent from the 3-point arc, but over the past three games are just 10 for 35: 28.6 percent . . . Cal is 26 for 29 from the foul line the past two games.
Cal (16-4, 6-1 Pac-12)
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||So.||15.8||6.0|
|PF Harper Kamp||6-8||Sr.||9.3||5.0|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||Fr.||5.7||5.4|
|SG Jorge Gutierrez||6-3||Sr.||14.1||5.0|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||So.||13.0||4.8*|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Jr.||4.0||3.0*|
|G Emerson Murray||6-2||So.||2.1||0.8|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Jr.||3.3||1.6|
Washington State (10-8, 2-4 Pac-12)
|PF Brock Motum||6-10||Jr.||15.4||6.1|
|PF Charlie Enquist||6-10||Sr.||5.3||4.8|
|SG Marcus Capers||6-4||Sr.||5.3||4.1|
|SG DaVonte Lacy||6-3||Fr.||9.7||2.0|
|PG Reggie Moore||6-1||Jr.||9.4||5.4*|
|G Faisal Aden||6-4||Sr.||14.5||3.2|
|F D.J. Shelton||6-10||So.||5.0||2.9|
|F Abe Lodwick||6-7||Sr.||3.4||3.4|