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Basketball: USC game preview

TIPOFF: 7 p.m. Sunday at Haas Pavilion, Berkeley. TV/Radio: KICU/910-AM.

UPDATE: Senior guard Brandon Smith cleared to play today.

The Golden Bears are executing and playing with confidence.

The trick Sunday against USC is maintaining the edge they have taken into recent wins over Oregon, Arizona and UCLA.

“We played two ranked teams — no reason not to be excited,” coach Mike Montgomery said of the games vs. Oregon and Arizona. “We’ve got to stay excited against everybody. That’s going to be the key for us.”

The Bears certainly don’t want to sleep on the Trojans, who have won four in a row and are 5-3 since replacing coach Kevin O’Neill with Bob Cantu.

“They’ve got the same record in conference as we have,” sophomore David Kravish, noting that the Bears and Trojans are tied for fifth place, one-half game back of Arizona State. “I don’t know if people aren’t noticing them. We’ve got to go into that game with the same intensity as Oregon and Arizona.”

Montgomery said this will be a tougher assignment than a month ago, when Cal beat USC in Los Angeles.

“No question,” he said. “When they started the year they thought they had a team that could contend for the conference championship.

“They feel like they have talent. Bob’s gone in said, `When you’re open, shoot it. They seem to have thrived on that. We’re going to have to be ready to play.”

The Bears have thrived, as much as anything, because they have learned how to play hard.

“When we beat Oregon,” Kravish said, “that game showed us how we had to play. We’ve got to play hard as a team every game, every minute.”

USC won’t be the only team at Haas Pavilion that’s hiked its level since a month ago.

“Obviously, we’re playing better now,” said Montgomery. “Guys have figured out what they can and can’t do, how to take advantage of certain things. We’re playing with a lot of condidence. Part of it is because we’re playing harder. We don’t have as many mental lapses.”

The wave of momentum the Bears are riding is a natural byproduct of success, Montgomery suggested.

“The feeling they had at Arizona was pretty special,” he said. “Those kids were on Cloud 9. To go into that facility and win, there’s a little carryover knowing the effort is worth. They’re talking to one another, holding each other accountable, trying to get each other to play hard.”

Junior Allen Crabbe said it’s been a process.

“We feel as a team we’re unstoppable,” he said. “There were some bumps in the road (early) in the conference. I feel like everybody’s more on the same page. We’re trusting each other to make plays more. I just really feel like our team intensity is good.”

ABOUT THE TROJANS: USC is 5-3 since Bob Cantu was installed as interim coach on Jan. 14, replacing Kevin O’Neill. The Trojans have won five of their past seven games and four in a row, including a 65-64 win at Stanford on Thursday. USC has not won more than four games in a row since an eight-game streak in 2009. … One of the primary beneficiaries of the coaching change is junior G J.T. Terrell, whose scoring average jumped from 9.3 ppg under O’Neill to 13.5 under Cantu. Terrell did not even play in the first Cal game. … The Trojans scored at a 63.8 ppg clip with O’Neill as coach and are averaging 71.1 with Cantu. … USC has blocked 129 shots this season, second-most in the Pac-12. … Junior wing Ari Stewart (4.4 ppg), who broke his left thumb on Feb. 10, remains out. 

THE SERIES: Cal leads 132-120. The Bears won 72-64 in Los Angeles on Jan. 5 behind 27 points from Allen Crabbe. Cal has won three in a row.

ETC: Allen Crabbe has moved to No. 12 on Cal’s career scoring list with 1,401 points. Next up: Rickey Hawthorne (1973-76) with 1,413 points. … Cal’s win at Arizona bumped the Bears from No. 75 in the RPI to No. 59. They gravitated up to No. 62 over the next couple days, but the win over UCLA improved them to No. 57.

WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays Oregon on Thursday at Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, Ore. Tipoff is 6 p.m.

Cal (15-9, 7-5 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SG Allen Crabbe 6-6 Jr. 19.6 5.5
PF Richard Solomon 6-10 Jr. 8.4 6.5
PF David Kravish 6-9 So. 8.3 7.0
PG Justin Cobbs 6-2 Jr. 14.5 4.5*
SG Tyrone Wallace 6-3 Fr. 7.3 4.6
Key reserves
G Brandon Smith 5-11 Sr. 2.8 2.1*
C Robert Thurman 6-10 Sr. 5.0 3.8
F Bak Bak 6-9 Sr. 1.9 1.0

USC (12-13, 7-5 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PR Dewayne Dedmon 7-0 Jr. 6.6 7.0
SF Eric Wise 6-6 Sr. 12.2 5.8
SG Byron Wesley 6-5 So. 10.1 4.6
SG J.T. Terrell 6-3 Jr. 10.7 1.9
PG Jio Fontan 6-0 Sr. 9.6 5.1*
Key reserves
F Aaron Fuller 6-6 Sr. 4.8 3.8
C Omar Oraby 7-2 Jr. 4.4 2.7
G Chass Bryan 5-9 Fr. 2.4 1.5*

*Assists

Jeff Faraudo

  • Gobears49

    Highlight reel of the second seven footer we will have next year, Kameron Rooks, son of Arizona great Sean Rooks. Doesn’t jump well, with his jump hook being more like a stand or hop hook. He blocks shots without jumping, something that Kravish seems to be good at, but that is against high school competition. But he shows he can make his hook shot with either hand. Also showed an outside shot. Maybe he’d like to have a H-O-R-S-E contest, just using shots outside of ten feet, with another big guy that likes to try outside shots, Richard Soloman (just kidding with you, Richard).

    I’m becoming a big fan and will be at the game tomorrow. I’m going to be watching to see how many times Cobbs regresses, taking extremely difficult shots while being closely guarded, which he hardly ever makes — he’s so much more helpful to the team when he doesn’t do that. Still, he’s my favorite player, who’s an under-appreciated talent (with an outside chance of making an NBA team), along with Kravish, who never forces anything and just lets the game come to him. He should NEVER pass up a shot within ten feet when he is open. He’s a very disciplined player, just like Kreklow.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyvvuKxKGok

  • Kevin

    If this isn’t this classic let down game then I don’t know what is. Come on Bears, let’s do 5 – 1 down the stretch, win a game in the Pac 12 tourney and get back to the NCAA tourney, and not have to play one of the first four games. Huge game tomorrow, a game we typically lose. USC is arguably the hottest team in the league besides us, and under the radar.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    How is this game not televised? Larry Scott should have to pay us instead of get a salary for this clustermuck.

  • wehofx

    Yeah, big Trap game.

    Tweet from our own JF:

    Jeff Faraudo ‏@CalBearsBANG

    http://DraftExpress.com rates Cal’s Allen Crabbe No.11 junior, but only No. 48 overall. If true — and who knows? — suggests he should stay.

  • Gobears49

    Wisdom Cow.

    Game is televised on Comcast on channels 6 and 706. You probably have a dish, which I think most sports bars use. You need to find one that uses Comcast or some other cable outlet. Call Ricky’s Sports Bar in the East Bay. They may use Comcast.

    BTW, I agree this is a trap game. The guys are talking like they’re feeling too good about themselves and their future, looking forward to their games next week in Oregon. They have to play each game at a time and not look ahead. Hope Monty can get them focused on that tonight.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Nope, I’m in West Sac. KICU is a local only channel, precisely what Scott said would not happen. “Local” was meant to still be the NorCal footprint, and even then, available in other sports packages on most cable systems.

    It’s almost like the abomination that is the Warrior game blackout here in Yolo County, because they expect us to root for the Kings. C’mon Seattle! Take them, please, and give me the Warriors back. [Conspiracy Theory - I believed all along that Stern was behind the Kings move, which was part of how the Warriors sale was so exorbitant, knowing their "local" media footprint was soon to double, greatly elevating their yearly revenue.]

  • Gobears49

    Wisdom Cow,

    KICU is channel 6 here and they are showing the game. Don’t understand why you don’t get that, but don’t spend anytime trying to explain it to me. All I know is that if I couldn’t get a game I wanted to watch, I’d be calling the sports bars in the area to see if it was on or see if had a friend that gets cable, if it shows the Cal game. Another idea, if you are an alum, is to get an alumni group to show the game, perhaps at a sports bar that would pay extra to get it. My father has gone to Yale alumni get togethers where they watch those games in L.A. starting at 9 a.m. their time. All I know is that if there’s a will, there’s a way.

    Go Bears!

  • The Wisdom Cow

    My physical condition puts me in the same category as those trapped under something heavy. I don’t get out much, especially in winter.

    Besides a local sports bar would only have the game if they had satellite access to TV 36 (KICU) or whatever LA channel has the game. The only Bay Area public channel we get here is Channel 2 (KTVU), and it’s only on a non-cable box connection, and even then it is quite poor quality. We have Sacramento’s Fox, CBS, ABC, and NBC channels, with no independents.

    My will is spent on not screaming over constant pain. The joyful (sometimes), temporal distraction of Cal (and other) sports on TV is the Spackle filling the multiple holes in my wall of motivation. Of course, games sometimes allow the excuse to scream. No game = suffering in silence.