TIPOFF: 8 p.m. Tuesday at Haas Pavilion. TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks/910 AM.
Having concluded the toughest stretch of its nonconference schedule — with losses to Wisconsin, UNLV and Creighton — the Bears face the first of their final three contests before the start of Pac-12 play. All three are at home and all three should net victories.
An interesting dynamic to follow in the days ahead is how coach Mike Montgomery divides his backcourt minutes. Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs rank among the conference leaders in minutes played, but they are so valuable to the offense their playing time isn’t likely to diminish much.
But Montgomery wants and needs more scoring options, and with freshman Tyrone Wallace beginning to emerge and sophomore Ricky Kreklow’s sore foot apparently on the mend, we could see some new combinations.
Senior Brandon Smith has started every game and gives the Bears experience, but he played just nine minutes against Creighton, while Wallace (27 minutes) and Kreklow (15) were on the floor more extensively.
Both provide elements the Bears need — energy, quickness and aggressiveness. Wallace had eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Kreklow, playing his first game after sitting for five, had little rhythm but is a defensive factor and should emerge some as a scorer.
Because Santa Barbara has no starter taller than 6-foot-8, it will be no surprise if Monty utilizes a four-man backcourt at times to maximize the Bears’ quickness and ability to score in transition.
ABOUT THE GAUCHOS: UCSB has lost to LSU, Illinois State, Boise State, Wyoming and San Diego State — teams with a combined record of 38-7 through games on Monday. Among its two D-I victories was an 83-80 overtime defeat of Santa Clara. … Sophomore C Alan Williams is averaging 23.7 points and 11.7 rebounds over the past three games, including a 29-point, 17-rebound performance vs. Santa Clara. … Freshman Taran Brown has double-doubles in seven of nine games, and a pair of 20-point efforts.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 9-0. The Bears won 70-50 last season as Justin Cobbs scored 25 points and Allen Crabbe contributed 19, and won 87-66 two years before that. Five of the previous seven meetings were settled by single-digit margins.
ETC: The Bears have lost their past three games and have dropped four in a row under coach Mike Montgomery just once — a stretch of conference games including Arizona and Washington during the 2010-11 season. … Despite coming off a 6 for 26 shooting performance in the loss to Creighton, Allen Crabbe continues to lead the Pac-12 in scoring at 21.0 ppg. … David Kravish’s 13 rebounds vs. Creighton were a season high and the third time this season he has pulled down double-digit rebounds.
WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays Prairie View A&M at Haas Pavilion, Saturday, Dec. 22 at Haas Pavilion. Tipoff is 2 p.m.
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||Jr.||21.0||5.8|
|PF Richard Solomon||6-10||Jr.||8.4||6.2|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||So.||6.3||8.4|
|SG Justin Cobbs||6-2||Jr.||17.8||4.0*|
|PG Brandon Smith||5-11||Sr.||3.8||2.8*|
|G Tyrone Wallace||6-3||Fr.||6.0||4.3|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Sr.||5.1||3.3|
|G Ricky Kreklow||6-6||So.||5.7||4.0|
UC Santa Barbara (4-5)
|C Alan Williams||6-7||S0.||17.2||9.4|
|F Taran Brown||6-8||Fr.||13.9||6.0|
|SG Michael Bryson||6-4||Fr.||5.8||2.6|
|SF Lewis Thomas||6-7||So.||3.0||4.1|
|PG Nate Garth||6-2||Sr.||5.2||4.0*|
|G Kyle Boswell||6-2||Jr.||11.7||2.2*|
|G T.J. Taylor||5-9||So.||3.0||2.3*|
|F Sam Beeler||6-10||Fr.||2.9||2.0|