* 4 p.m. Sunday, Fox Sports 1
Having lost twice this season with one big man tied behind its back, Cal hopes to regain a little ground Sunday against Creighton (8-2) in Omaha, Neb.
The Golden Bears (8-3) dropped two of three games at the Maui Invitational while playing without senior forward Richard Solomon (12.0 ppg, 10.6 rpg), who suffered a scratched cornea in the first game of the tournament. Cal has been back at full strength since.
“We feel like we’re a game or so down where we might have been,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “It’s a chance to maybe get that one back.”
This is Cal’s last chance before the start of Pac-12 play to score an attention-grabbing victory. The Bears knocked off Arkansas (8-2) in Hawaii, but weren’t able to get over the hump against Syracuse (11-0) or Dayton (9-2).
This one won’t be easy, either. The Bluejays beat Cal 74-64 in Berkeley last year and already boast an 88-60 rout of Arizona State.
“It’s going to be a really hard game,” Montgomery said. “They played really well here last year. They’re a very good basketball team and it’s a home court that’s going to be difficult.”
Creighton anticipates a crowd of more than 17,000 for the game at CenturyLink Center. The Bluejays have beaten 14 straight BCS nonconference opponents in the facility, by an average margin of 11.4 points.
The venue won’t be the only challenge. Creighton forward Doug McDermott is one of the nation’s most accomplished players. Already a two-time All-American, the 6-foot-8 senior is averaging 25.3 points this season and shooting 44 percent from the 3-point arc.
McDermott, whose father Greg coaches the Bluejays, had 34 points and nine rebounds against Cal a year ago. He has topped 30 points on four occasions already this season and needs just 31 more to reach 2,500 points for his career.
Creighton has four starters back from last year’s 28-8 squad, and starts four seniors and a junior.
Justin Cobbs had 18 points and seven assists for Cal against Creighton last season and David Kravish grabbed 13 rebounds. But Solomon, Ricky Kreklow and Tyrone Wallace all fouled out and Allen Crabbe had one of the worst shooting games of his college career, missing 20 of 26 attempts.
The Bears converted just 35 percent, including 3 for 17 from 3-point range.
Cobbs needs just three assists to reach 400 for his career.