Basketball: After holiday break, Bears close out nonconference schedule at home vs. Furman

* 3 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Networks

Its backcourt depth stripped by two key injuries, Cal (8-4) tries to reinvent itself Saturday at Haas Pavilion against Furman (5-6) of the Southern Conference.

Don’t expect freshman Jabari Bird (11.9 ppg) to suit up for the Bears. He’s listed as questionable after spraining his ankle last Sunday at Creighton. But even if he’s cleared, it seems unlikely the Bears would use him with the Pac-12 opener looming.

Cal opens conference play on Jan. 2 at Stanford.

Coach Mike Montgomery’s priority against Furman will be to find a productive rotation with junior guard Ricky Kreklow (6.4 ppg) sidelined for more than another month after breaking his hand Dec. 18, and Bird likely out for at least the immediate future.

Expect freshman Jordan Mathews (7.6 ppg) to join Justin Cobbs and Tyrone Wallace in the starting backcourt, with Richard Solomon and David Kravish up front.

Freshman guard Sam Singer, who averaged just 9 minutes and 1.9 points through Cal’s first 12 games, will see substantially more playing time. Freshman wing Roger Moute a Bidias also could get greater opportunity.

Winners of just three of their past seven games after a 5-0 start, the Bears figure to be too much for Furman.

The Paladins lost by scores of 71-35 to Clemson and 89-55 to Charleston, and also dropped a 97-93 decision to Division II Mars Hill, which entered the game just 1-6.

Two of Furman’s victories came over non-Division I opponents.

The Greeneville, S.C., squad does have a prolific scorer in 6-foot sophomore guard Stephen Croone, who averages 21.2 points and is coming off a 40-point performance in Furman’s 86-83 win over Liberty.

It’s the most points scored in a game by a Furman player since 1972, but nowhere near the school record. That’s held by Frank Selvy, who scored a still-standing NCAA Division I record 100 points in a 149-95 win over Newberry College on Feb. 13, 1954.

The Paladins also feature freshman guard William Gates Jr., the son of William Gates, c0-star of the movie “Hoop Dreams.” Gates is averaging 10.6 points and converting percent from the 3-point line.

Cal and Furman have met once before, with the Bears posting an 84-50 victory at Berkeley on Dec. 19, 2006.




Jeff Faraudo