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Basketball: Utah game preview

TIPOFF: 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City. TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks/910-AM.

A month after suffering a concussion against Prairie View A&M — his second in a year and fourth of his life — Cal senior guard Brandon Smith hopes to be back on the basketball court Thursday night when the Bears visit Utah.

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Update: Smith practiced and traveled with the team Wednesday but remains questionable to play Thursday, pending clearance by a doctor.

Update II: Utes guard Jarred DuBois questionable to face Bears.

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“None of the doctors I’ve seen so far have given me any negative future consequence of having a concussion right now,” said Smith, who is awaiting final clearance to play.

Head injuries and their long-term consequences have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, especially in the NFL, which is dealing with legal fallout from former players. On Wednesday, the family of Junior Seau filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court in San Diego, claiming brain injuries caused the 43-year-old former linebacker to commit suicide last May.

Spills to an unforgiving hardwood floor — not helmet-to-helmet contact — are the concern in basketball, which seemingly has far fewer concussion incidents.

But Smith’s doctors have taken a cautious approach to his return after he hit the Haas Pavilion floor on Dec. 22. The 21-year-old De La Salle High graduate went up to grab a loose ball and felt another player undercut him.

“I just closed my eyes and knew it was going to be a tough landing,” he recalled this week. “And then — boom! — my head hit the floor and bounced up. I was just gone for a second. I don’t know how long that was.”

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ABOUT THE UTES: The Bears are facing a Utes squad coming off a 74-65 road win against the same Washington team that beat Cal 62-47 in Berkeley two weeks ago. Most amazing, it was Utah’s first conference win after five defeats. “It wasn’t a fluke,” Montgomery said. “They were ahead the whole game. They beat ‘em, beat ‘em good.” In fact, the Utes had gotten very close in several other games against strong opponents, losing 55-54 in overtime at Arizona State, 60-57 at Arizona and 57-53 vs. UCLA. … Junior Glen Dean has started every game this season at PG, but Montgomery won’t be surprised if the job goes to freshman Brandon Taylor, who had 19 points and six assists against Washington after scoring 13 at Washington State. “He had not played much,” Montgomery said. “All of a sudden, he was given more time and just ran with it … 19 points, drilling 3s, controlling the tempo, you couldn’t take it from him. It made a lot of difference.” … Senior C Jason Washburn is averaging 14.7 ppg an d 9.5 rpg in Pac-12 games, including three games of 17 points or more.

THE SERIES: Cal leads 11-8. The Bears have won the past three meetings, including a season sweep last year when they prevailed 81-45 in Berkeley and 60-46 in Salt Lake City.

ETC: Here’s the reality with the Bears at this point — they are 10-0 against teams ranked above No. 100 in the RPI, 0-7 vs. the top-100. Utah is rated No. 147 by RPI. … After a 6-0 start, the Bears are just 4-7.  … The Bears are shooting just 26.5 percent from the 3-point arc through five Pac-12 games. That includes a combined 5 for 22 by Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. … Cal is minus-4.2 turnovers per game in conference play.

WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays Colorado on Sunday the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. Tipoff is 12:30 p.m. PT.

Cal (10-7, 2-3 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SG Allen Crabbe 6-6 Jr. 19.8 5.5
PF Richard Solomon 6-10 Jr. 8.5 6.5
PF David Kravish 6-9 So. 8.0 7.5
PG Justin Cobbs 6-2 Jr. 14.8 4.1*
SG Tyrone Wallace 6-3 Fr. 6.5 5.0
Key reserves
G Brandon Smith 5-11 Sr. 3.5 2.5*
C Robert Thurman 6-10 Sr. 4.8 3.6
G Jeff Powers 6-7 Jr. 1.7 0.5

*Assists

Utah (9-9, 1-5 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Jordan Leveridge 6-6 Fr. 12.8 7.3
C Jason Washburn 6-10 Sr. 11.0 6.3
SG Jarred DuBois 6-3 Sr. 12.5 2.9
SG Cedric Martin 6-4 Sr. 4.6 2.9
PG Glen Dean 5-10 Jr. 7.1 2.6*
Key reserves
G Brandon Taylor 5-10 Fr. 4.7 1.0*
C Dallin Bachynski 7-0 So. 5.4 4.4
G Justin Seymour 6-3 Fr. 3.8 2.5

*Assists

Jeff Faraudo