TIPOFF: 8 p.m. Saturday at Haas Pavilion. TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks/910 AM.
The Bears return to the court for the final game of the toughest three-game stretch in their nonconference schedule. Cal lost 81-56 at Wisconsin on Dec. 2 and 76-75 at home to UNLV last Sunday.
“In my opinion, Creighton is the best of the three teams we will have played in this stretch,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of the 16th-ranked Bluejays.
To overcome Creighton, the Bears will need a performance from junior guard Justin Cobbs that more resembles the way he played the first six games this season than the past two.
The difference is significant:
— Cobbs was perhaps the Bears’ best player the first six games, averaging 20 points on 63.5-percent shooting from the field, while contributing 5.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists with just 3.0 turnovers per game.
— Over the past two games, Cobbs’ scoring has slipped to 11 points per game on 30-percent accuracy, with just 1.0 rebound, 3.5 assists and 6.0 turnovers per game.
“Obviously, it’s been a little tougher, tougher to get the shots you want. They’re taking a lot of things away,” he said. “As a basketball player, you just have to adjust and do other things to help the tean win. It doesn’t always have to be scoring.”
Cobbs faced better scouting and more defensive attention the past two games, and he admits he didn’t respond properly. At Wisconsin, he had one of the roughest games of his career, with seven turnovers and zero assists.
“It just got to me and I was very frustrated,” he said. “As the point guard and a leader, I can’t let that happen, just be that frustrated and let the thing affect me. I’m learning.”
The fact is, on a team with limited scoring options, Cobbs needs to complement Allen Crabbe as a scoring threat.
“I felt like the second half against UNLV I was a little passive. I have to change my mindset, just stay aggressive. Just think about the next play and not worry about what happened before that,” he said.
“I do have to score and I do have to get my teammates involved. It might be a lot for one guy, but I’ve got to get it done. That’s something as a point guard you’ve got to embrace. The leadership thing, we just have to keep picking guys up.”
Cobbs said no one should worry he needs a lift. With final exams over, he planned to spend more time in the gym working on his shot and his ballhandling.
“My confidence . . . there’s nothing wrong with it,” he said. “I’m not going to let two games stop my confidence.”
ON CREIGHTON: The Bluejays feature junior forward and national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott, son of Creighton coach Greg McDermott. But McDermott is no one-man team. The Bluejays’ center is 6-foot-9, 260-pound senior Gregory Echenique, who played for the Venezuelan national team the past two summers and has led the Missouri Valley Conference in blocked shots the past two seasons. Senior point guard Grant Gibbs has a 66/9 season assist-to-turnover ratio, including a stunning 27/1 count over the past three games. Creighton shoots 42.1 percent from the 3-point line as a team — tied for eighth-best in the country. McDermott leads the way at 52.3 percent and has made 50 percent of his attempts from deep over the past 64 games.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 2-0. The Bears won 41-35 in Omaha in 1938 and 70-49 at Berkeley in 1987.
ETC: Allen Crabbe is 31st on Cal’s career scoring list with 1,105 points. … Creighton senior reserve guard Josh Jones is out indefinitely and will have a procedure to address an atrial flutter in his heart that caused him to pass out before a game vs. Nebraska on Dec. 6. … Cal sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow (foot) will miss his seventh game of the season. … In games involving the teams’ only common opponent this season, Creighton beat Wisconsin 84-74 at home and Cal lost to the Badgers 81-56 on the road.
WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays UC Santa Barbara at Haas Pavilion, Tuesday, Dec. 18 at Haas Pavilion. Tipoff is 8 p.m. PST.
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||Jr.||21.9||5.6|
|PF Richard Solomon||6-10||Jr.||8.4||6.4|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||So.||6.3||7.9|
|SG Justin Cobbs||6-2||Jr.||17.8||3.6*|
|PG Brandon Smith||5-11||Sr.||4.0||3.0*|
|G Tyrone Wallace||6-3||Fr.||6.0||3.6|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Sr.||5.3||3.4|
|G Ricky Kreklow||6-6||So.||6.5||5.0|
|C Gregory Echenique||6-9||Sr.||10.5||7.1|
|F Doug McDermott||6-8||Jr.||22.7||6.7|
|SG Austin Chambers||6-0||So.||8.5||4.5|
|SG Jahenns Manigat||6-1||Jr.||4.0||1.1|
|PG Grant Gibbs||6-5||Sr.||7.0||6.6*|
|F Ethan Wragge||6-7||Jr.||9.8||2.9|
|G Avery Dingman||6-6||So.||4.8||2.6|
|C Will Artino||6-11||So.||3.0||2.3|