TIPOFF: 1 p.m. Saturday at Haas Pavilion, Berkeley. TV/Radio: Pac-12/910 AM.
The word is out on the Cal basketball team: Play physical and aggressive and wait to see if the Golden Bears back down.
By their own admission, they did just that in a 62-47 home loss to Washington, and coach Mike Montgomery challenged his players afterward to change the script.
When asked to comment on sophomore David Kravish’s remark that the Bears played with no heart, Montgomery acknowledged there’s “an element of that.”
But he didn’t stop there.
“At some point the kids are going to have to step up and figure out what they want to be and how they’re going to be perceived and what it is they want to try to do,” Montgomery said.
Picked to finish third in the Pac-12 Conference, the Bears (9-6, 1-2) have lost six of their past nine games. Against WSU (9-6, 0-2), they cannot afford another stumble.
A year ago, Cal got leadership from seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, both unwilling to down from any opponent. Without them, there is no clear emotional leader or tough guy on this club.
Making matters worse, the Bears have limited depth, exacerbated by injuries in the backcourt.
On Wednesday, after Washington ran off 16 straight points to break open a tie game, Cal never made a serious comeback bid.
“Once we got down, we kind of caved a little bit,” Montgomery said. “We caved to the pressure and let them have their way with us. A lot of it had to do with mental preparation.
“We’ve got to continue to work on that in terms of understanding that every game we play is going to be an absolute dogfight. We’ve got to make our minds up that if somebody pushes, we’ve got to push back, that if there’s a loose ball, we’ve got to go on the floor.”
Cal allowed Washington 20 offensive rebounds and seemed outworked for every 50-50 ball. Montgomery said the Bears didn’t show poise or consistent toughness.
“I don’t think that’s totally ingrained in us,” he said.
COBBS’ STRUGGLES: Among changes Montgomery made against UW was shifting freshman Tyrone Wallace part-time to point guard, giving Justin Cobbs the chance to focus on his own scoring. Neither move was effective.
The team’s No. 2 option behind Pac-12 scoring leader Allen Crabbe, Cobbs averaged 20 points on 63.5-percent shooting as the Bears won their first six games. In nine games since then, he is averaging 12 points and converting just 38.3 percent. He hasn’t made a 3-pointer the past five games.
A day after shooting 4 for 15 against the Huskies, Cobbs tweeted, “toughest time of my life.”
Montgomery said Cobbs must take shots he can make.
“Shots going in has an awful lot to do with shot selection,” Montgomery said. “He tried to take the ball maybe a step too far rather than stopping and rising up (for a mid-range shot).”
ABOUT THE COUGARS: Senior F Brock Motum of Brisbane, Australia, is the Pac-12’s No. 2 scorer (behind Cal’s Allen Crabbe) with an average of 20.0 ppg. He is coming off a season-high 29-point performance in the Cougars’ 78-67 loss at Stanford. Motum has seven 20-point games this season. … The Cougars lost 78-41 early this season at Kansas, but showed marked progress in a last-second 71-69 loss to regional rival Gonzaga. … Freshman Richard “Junior” Longrus of Oakland was a former Bishop O’Dowd HS teammate of Arizona freshman Brandon Ashley.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 73-47. WSU won 77-75 in last season’s only meeting at Pullman, Wash. The Cougars have won the past two games after a five-game win streak by Cal.
ETC: Despite being held to a season-low nine points by UW, Allen Crabbe moved past Jorge Gutierrez and Ryan Anderson into 19th on Cal’s career scoring list with 1,238 points. He is one point behind Brian Wethers. … WSU sophomore G Royce Woolridge, who sat out last season after transferring from Kansas, is the son of the late Orlando Woolridge, who played at Notre Dame, and the great nephew of NY Knicks legend Willis Reed.
WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays Stanford on Saturday, Jan. 19 at Haas Pavilion. Tipoff is 1:30 p.m.
Cal (9-6, 1-1 Pac-12)
|SG Allen Crabbe||6-6||Jr.||20.5||5.9|
|PF Richard Solomon||6-10||Jr.||8.5||6.3|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||So.||7.7||7.6|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||Jr.||15.2||3.9*|
|SG Tyrone Wallace||6-3||Fr.||5.9||4.9|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Sr.||3.5||2.5*|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Sr.||4.9||3.7|
|G Jeff Powers||6-7||Jr.||1.5||0.5|
Washington State (9-6, 0-2)
|F Brock Motum||6-10||Sr.||20.0||6.5|
|F D.J. Shelton||6-9||Jr.||5.3||5.9|
|SG Mike Ladd||6-5||Sr.||9.8||5.5|
|SG Will DiIorio||6-5||Sr.||3.9||2.5|
|PG DaVonte Lacy||6-3||So.||10.8||2.5|
|G Dexter Kernich-Drew||6-6||So.||7.2||3.1|
|G Royce Woolridge||6-3||So.||6.9||2.7|
|F Junior Longrus||6-7||Fr.||1.1||2.1|