TIPOFF: 12:36 p.m. Sunday at the Coors Event Center, Boulder, Colo. TV/Radio: KICU-36/910-AM.
There are several things standing in Cal’s way of a victory Sunday at Colorado. Foremost among them is 6-7 junior forward Andre Roberson, who had 20 rebounds Thursday in a win over Stanford and leads the nation at 11.9 per game.
Roberson’s ability to control the defensive boards allows the Buffaloes to run, which gives them an advantage over visitors gasping for air at 5,345 feet above sea level.
And his work on the offensive boards gives second chances to a Colorado team that has not shot the 3-pointer well in recent weeks and is among the Pac-12’s poorest free-throw shooting teams.
“He’s got a really good nose for the ball and he’s relentless. He reacts very quickly to a ball and he’s very quick off his feet on the second jump,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of Roberson. “If he gets a hand on it, he’s going to get down and up again faster than you are.”
Roberson is not the Bears’ only problem. CU is very good at home, partly because it plays a mile above sea level.
“There is the altitude issue, whether you like to admit it or not,” Montgomery said. “Their record here is for a reason. It’s a hard place to play.”
Cal’s depth issues make coping with the altitude tougher still, although they got a lift Thursday at Utah when senior guard Brandon Smith returned to action after missing six games with a concussion. He hadn’t lost any of his defensive nerve in the meantime, Montgomery said.
“The thing you’ve got to admire about the kid, the very first time he got in the game that he had a chance to take a charge, he took one,” Montgomery said. “I’ve got to be honest: I was going, `No way.’ There’s no second thought.”
ABOUT THE BUFFS: After starting the conference 1-4, Colorado has won its past two games, including a 75-54 rout of Stanford on Thursday. CU is 22-3 at home the past two years, 40-5 at the Events Center since Tad Boyle took over as coach for the 2010-11 season. . . . CU features a balanced offense and thrives in transition. The Buffaloes are shooting just 22.1 percent (17 for 77) from the 3-point arc the past six games, and convert just 66 percent from the FT line. But Montgomery said the Buffs are strong defensively and may be the best fastbreak team the Bears will face this season. … CU starts two freshmen and two sophomores along with Roberson.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 10-9. Colorado has won four of the past five meets, including two of three last season. The Bears won 57-50 in Berkeley, but lost 70-67 in Boulder and 70-59 in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. Cal is 1-7 all-time at Boulder.
ETC: A win Sunday would pull the Bears into a tie for fifth place in the Pac-12 standings; a loss would drop them into seventh place or a tie for seventh. … Colorado is ranked 19th according to RealTimeRPI, while Cal is 83rd. … Cal coach Mike Montgomery needs one victory to reach 100 in his fifth season at Cal. He would become the third-fastest Cal coach to earn 100 wins. Nibs Price did it in his 139th game, Pete Newell in his 142nd game. Montgomery is coaching his 154th game for the Bears. … Allen Crabbe, with 1,289 career points, needs three points to move past Dave Butler into 17th on Cal’s career scoring list. He trails Theo Robertson by 26 points.
WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays Oregon State on Thursday the Haas Pavilion. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
Cal (11-7, 3-3 Pac-12)
|SG Allen Crabbe||6-6||Jr.||19.9||5.5|
|PF Richard Solomon||6-10||Jr.||8.1||6.4|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||So.||7.8||7.4|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||Jr.||14.3||4.1*|
|SG Tyrone Wallace||6-3||Fr.||6.8||4.9|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Sr.||3.4||2.5*|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Sr.||5.0||3.7|
|F Bak Bak||6-9||Sr.||1.8||1.2|
Colorado (13-6, 3-4 Pac-12)
|PF Andre Roberson||6-7||Jr.||10.6||11.9|
|C Josh Scott||6-10||Fr.||12.9||5.7|
|SF Xavier Johnson||6-6||Fr.||7.5||3.6|
|SG Askia Booker||6-1||So.||14.1||3.7|
|PG Spencer Dinwiddie||6-6||So.||14.4||3.7|
|G Sabatino Chen||6-4||Sr.||4.6||2.4|
|G Eli Stalzer||6-3||Fr.||1.9||0.9|
|G Jeremy Adams||6-5||Jr.||1.9||1.0|