UC Irvine at Cal: 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
The Golden Bears (5-2), back from the islands after losing their final two games at the Maui Invitational, face UC Irvine (5-3) and perhaps the biggest player they will ever see.
The Anteaters feature 7-foot-6, 290-pound freshman Mamadou Ndiaye, a native of Senegal, who had 18 points, eight rebounds and nine blocked shots in UCI’s 86-72 win at Washington.
Ndiaye had 10 blocks in a win over Eastern Washington and averages 3.6 per game. His contributions elsewhere are generally modest: 9.0 points and 5.9 rebounds. Ndiaye shoots 73.7 percent from the field, just 41 percent from the free throw line.
The young man is raw. But he is big.
Cal may face the Anteaters without its biggest player. The status of 6-10 senior forward Richard Solomon (11.0 ppg, 11.4 rpg) remains a game-time decision. Solomon suffered a corneal abrasion in the Bears’ Maui win over Arkansas, then sat out losses to Syracuse and Dayton.
Senior point guard Justin Cobbs (15.6, 5.9 apg) scored a career-high 31 points in the Bears’ loss to Dayton and earned all-tournament honors at Maui after averaging 20.3 points over three games.
Freshman Jabari Bird (13.1 ppg) averaged 16 points the first two games at Maui, then shot just 1 for 7 against Dayton. Junior forward David Kravish (11.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg) had a strong week in Maui, averaging 15.3 points and 10 rebounds.
Former USF coach and UCLA assistant Phil Mathews, the father of Cal freshman Jordan Mathews, is an alum of Irvine and once served as an assistant coach for the Anteaters.
Irvine is led by junior forward Will Davis II (12.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and former San Ramon Valley HS star Chris McNealy (11.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg).
Cobbs became the 43rd Cal player to reach 1,000 career points during the Bears’ Maui game vs. Syracuse. He now stands 41st all-time with 1,033 points.
Cal coach Mike Montgomery, with 662 career victories, is two wins shy of matching John Wooden for 27th on the all-time Division I coaching victories list.
The Bears are 5-2 all-time vs. UC Irvine, but 5-0 at home. Cal is 42-4 all-time vs. current members of the Big West Conference.