Basketball: UCLA game preview

TIPOFF: 8 p.m. Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. TV/Radio: FSN/910 AM.

In a phone interview on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, Cal coach Mike Montgomery was in a grouchy mood.

“How you doing?” I asked him.

“Not good.”

Monty had just finished another short-handed practice, with sixth-man Brandon Smith still recovering from a concussion now two weeks old, and key backcourt sub Ricky Kreklow on the sideline with foot and ankle issues.

Both are listed as “questionable” for the Bears’ Pac-12 opener Thursday night at UCLA. The guess here is Smith is more likely to see action than Kreklow, who has played in just four of the Bears’ 12 games.

“We’re not healthy,” Montgomery said. “We’re just not giving ourselves much of an opportunity right now because we can’t get the people we need on the floor. Practices haven’t been great. We can’t challenge each other physically.”

Junior power forward Richard Solomon was limited in practice early in the week because of a minor concussion, but is expected to play.

UCLA’s depth is no better, but the firepower in their seven available players is significant.

Led by three talented freshmen and senior point guard Larry Drew II, a transfer from North Carolina, the Bruins are the Pac-12’s most prolific offensive team.

“They’re going to score more points than a lot of people,” Montgomery said. “People are going to have a hard time defending them. Their players are too talented. If you get in one on one situation, they’re very difficult to defend.”

UCLA is not where it wants to be at the other end of the floor, ranked last in the conference in points allowed. Too often, they simply don’t stop the opposing ballhandler at the point of attack.

“They’ll get better defensively as they go,” Montgomery said.

THE BRUINS: Back on their home floor, the renovated, historic Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins have won five in a row and are adjusting well to a short bench after Joshua Smith and Tyler Lamb both left the program early this season. How far have they come? Cal Poly beat them and UC Irvine took them to overtime early in the season, but the Bruins are coming off a win over then-No. 7 Missouri. … Freshmen Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson are combining to average 46.1 points and 17.3 rebounds per game. … Muhammad, regarded as one of the nation’s elite freshmen, is third in the Pac-12 in scoring (19.6 ppg) and tops the conference in 3-point accuracy (.483). … Senior PG Larry Drew II, a transfer from North Carolina, is second nationally in assists at 8.6 per game and sports an impressive 5.1 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. Drew needs 12 assists to reach 500 for his college career. … UCLA leads the Pac-12 in scoring (80.9 ppg) and ranks last in scoring defense (69.5 ppg). 

THE SERIES: UCLA leads 132-100. Cal has won the past three meetings and five of the past six. The Bears have beaten UCLA three of the past four in Los Angeles, including 73-63 last season at the L.A. Sports Arena, where the Bruins played while Pauley Pavilion was undergoing renovation.

ETC: Junior Allen Crabbe has climbed to N0. 25 on Cal’s career scoring list with 1,181 points. With 15 points against UCLA, Crabbe will pass John Coughran (1,183), Gene Ransom (1,185) and Ayninde Ubaka (1,194) to move into 22nd place. … Crabbe and Justin Cobbs combined to score 448 of Cal’s 858 points in 12 nonconference games.

WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays USC at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Saturday, Jan. 5. Tipoff is 8 p.m.

Cal (8-4)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SG Allen Crabbe 6-6 Jr. 20.9 5.8
PF Richard Solomon 6-10 Jr. 8.7 6.3
PF David Kravish 6-9 So. 7.0 7.5
PG Justin Cobbs 6-2 Jr. 16.4 3.8*
SG Tyrone Wallace 6-3 Fr. 5.9 4.9
Key reserves
G Brandon Smith 5-11 Sr. 3.5 2.5*
C Robert Thurman 6-10 Sr. 5.5 3.3
G Ricky Kreklow 6-6 So. 5.5 3.3


UCLA (10-3)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
F Travis Wear 6-10 Jr. 11.0 6.6
SF Shabazz Muhammad 6-6 Fr. 19.6 4.6
SG Jordan Adams 6-5 Fr. 17.7 4.2
SG Kyle Anderson 6-9 Fr. 8.8 8.5
PG Larry Drew II 6-2 Sr. 6.1 8.6*
Key reserves
F David Wear 6-1- Jr. 8.5 4.8
G Norman Powell 6-4 So. 8.5 2.2
F-C Tony Parker 6-9 Fr. 3.2 1.5


Jeff Faraudo