Basketball: Stanford game preview

TIPOFF: 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Maples Pavilion, Stanford. TV/Radio: FSN & KICU/910-AM.

Neither Cal’s Justin Cobbs nor Stanford’s Chasson Randle has lost his way — or his confidence — even during the sometimes up and down process of learning to play point guard.

But only one will emerge victorious in their matchup Saturday afternoon at Maples Pavilion, and for him and his team the road going forward will be easier.

The Golden Bears (10-6, 2-2 Pac-12) and Cardinal (10-7, 1-3), after early stumbles, are hoping to stay within reach of the conference leaders. UCLA, Oregon and Washington all enter play Saturday unbeaten in the Pac-12, while Arizona and Arizona State have just one defeat apiece.

As full-time point guards for the first time this season, there is lot on the shoulders of Cobbs, a junior from Los Angeles, and Randle, a sophomore from Rock Island, Ill.

Cobbs, who played almost exclusively at shooting guard last season, acknowledged the position he inherited from Jorge Gutierrez is the toughest on the floor.

“For the guys who have it down pat, I’m happy for them,” he said. “For guys like us, who are struggling a little bit, we’re learning.”

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ABOUT THE CARDINAL: Mike Montgomery admits scouting his old team is made more difficult by the fact that Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins starts a different lineup seemingly every game. “They’ve got a lot of guys they play,” Montgomery said. “It’s hard to figure out. There’s different combinations all the time.” In fact, 12 different players have started at least two games for Stanford and only forwards Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis have started all 17. …  The Cardinal’s top scorer is the 6-10 Powell, who had his breakout game two seasons ago against the Bears, scoring 20 points in the 2010-11 Pac-12 opener. But Powell was plagued by injuries or inconsistency most of his first two seasons, totaling just five games of 14 points or more over than span. This year he already has 10 such performances.  “He’s always been a very explosive player,” Montgomery said. “He hurt us when he was a freshman, for sure. He’s hard to guard. He’s a 6-10 guy who can play away from the basket. He’s strong and he’s healthy.” Paired up front with Powell is 6-7 Josh Huestis, who plays with great energy and has blocked 37 shots this season. “I really like Huestis,” Monty said. Even Huestis will shoot the 3-pointer, allowing the Cardinal to spread the floor and create difficult matchups. The key for Stanford going forward is whether their primary guards — Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright — can begin shooting the way they did a year ago. So far, it’s been a struggle.

THE SERIES: Cal leads 145-115. The Bears won two of three meetings last season, including by a 77-71 margin in the Pac-12 tournament. Cal has won six of the past eight games and is 6-3 against Stanford since Mike Montgomery became coach.

ETC: Senior guard Brandon Smith, who has missed the past five games due to a concussion, is questionable for today’s game. … Sophomore Christian Behrens, who underwent ACL knee surgery last month, tweeted that he had his stitches removed this week. … Junior Allen Crabbe, who began the season 70 points shy of becoming the 42nd Cal player to score 1,000 for his career, has climbed to No. 18 on the list with 1,252 points. At his current pace of 20.1 ppg — provided Cal plays no more than one Pac-12 tournament game and not one other postseason game — he would move up No. 9 on the list.

WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays Utah next Thursday the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. Tipoff is 5:30 p.m. PT.

Cal (10-6, 2-2 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SG Allen Crabbe 6-6 Jr. 20.1 5.6
PF Richard Solomon 6-10 Jr. 8.4 6.4
PF David Kravish 6-9 So. 7.6 7.3
PG Justin Cobbs 6-2 Jr. 14.9 3.9*
SG Tyrone Wallace 6-3 Fr. 6.6 5.0
Key reserves
G Brandon Smith 5-11 Sr. 3.5 2.5*
C Robert Thurman 6-10 Sr. 4.9 3.8
G Jeff Powers 6-7 Jr. 1.8 0.5


Stanford (10-7, 1-3)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
F Dwight Powell 6-10 Jr. 14.8 7.5
F Josh Huestis 6-7 Jr. 9.0 9.0
F Andy Brown 6-7 Jr. 7.1 3.3
SG Aaron Bright 5-11 Jr. 8.8 2.7*
PG Chasson Randle 6-1 So. 13.4 2.9*
Key reserves
F John Gage 6-10 Jr. 4.5 2.1
G Robbie Lemons 6-3 Jr. 3.8 1.4
F Rosco Allen 6-9 Fr. 4.2 2.3


Jeff Faraudo