Basketball: Solomon’s preoccupation with rebounding a boost for Golden Bears

* Thursday at Eugene, Ore., 8 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

No. 17 Oregon (13-1, 1-1 Pac-12) will have plenty of advantages Thursday night against Cal (10-4, 1-0).

The Ducks lead the conference in scoring (89.4 ppg) and 3-point shooting accuracy (41.4 percent), convert better than 76 percent from the free throw line and boast as much depth as any team in the league.

But Cal has at least two things going for it:

1) The Bears have won 11 in a row vs. Oregon, every game they’ve played since coach Mike Montgomery arrived on campus for the the 2008-09 season. Cal won 48-46 at Matthew Knight Arena last year when Justin Cobbs sank a long jumper with 0.7 seconds left.

Montgomery, in fact, has a personal 14-game win streak going against the Ducks, dating back to his time at Stanford.

2) Cal is a stronger rebounding team, ranked fourth in the conference in rebound margin (plus-5.1), compared to Oregon at No. 8 (plus-3.2).

Senior Richard Solomon is at the heart of the Bears’ rebounding prowess, sitting atop the league at 10.5 per game.

“He talks about it all the time,” said Cobbs, Cal’s senior point guard and Solomon’s close friend. “That’s all he talks about, rebounding. Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding.

“He got mad at me at the Stanford game for trying to get a rebound. He just wants to get every rebound and I don’t blame him.”

At Stanford, the two teammates collided while trying to grab a missed shot and the ball went out of bounds to the Cardinal.

“He came over my back and knocked the rebound from me and it went out of bounds. That’s what I was mad about,” Solomon said. “I did take it pretty personally.”

Unlike a player boasting that he wants to lead the league in scoring, going after the rebound title is largely an unselfish pursuit.

“He’s got a single goal in mind, and that’s rebounding the ball,” Montgomery said. “He would like to lead the league in rebounds, and that’s an admirable goal.

“He seems to have come to grips a little bit with who he is and what he can do. It’s something that’s tangible for him, something he’s set his mind to do and it’s been good for us.”

Solomon already has seven double-digit rebounding games, equaling his combined total from the past two seasons. On the heels of a career-high 14 rebounds in Cal’s NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse to end last season, the 6-foot-10 forward had 17 against Oakland, 14 against Fresno State and 13 at Stanford.

In a recent conversation, Cobbs said he told Solomon, “You should have been doing this a long time ago. You’re the most athletic guy on the court all the time. Just get up and grab every rebound.”

Cobbs puts the blame on the recent trend of big men who wanted to be perimeter scorers.

“When he was a freshman and a sophomore he wanted to score, and I (told him), `Kevin Durant messed up your mind.’ Now he’s just locked in, knows what he needs to do.

“I think it’s a maturity thing. He finally understands what he needs to do to help this team win. It’s all positive and I’m happy for him.”

Solomon concedes that scoring had a greater lure early in his career. But he has grown.

“Playing basketball, you always want to score,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to focus on just rebounding. It’s so under-the-radar it doesn’t get all the publicity. Sometimes you want to be making those shots.

“I just realized that I don’t need to do that, focus on something I can be dominant at — it happened to be rebounding.”

Solomon insists he didn’t even know he was leading the Pac-12 in rebounding until Cobbs pointed it out to him a few weeks ago.

“I’m just playing my game. I’m not really focused on leading the league,” he said. “I’m just trying to get as many rebounds as I can.”

And nobody, including Cobbs, better get in the way.

Cal’s conference rebound leaders:
2005-06: Leon Powe 10.1
2003-04: Leon Powe 9.5
1981-82: Mark McNamara 12.6
1980-81: Mark McNamara 10.5
1960-61: Bill McCLintock 12.1
1959-60: Darrall Imhoff 12.4

Cal’s best single-season rebounders:
1. Bob Presley (1967-68) 14.5
2. Ansley Truitt (1971-72) 13.2
3. Mark McNamara (1981-82) 12.6
4. Darrall Imhoff (1959-60) 12.4
5. Ansley Truitt (1970-71) 12.2

Jeff Faraudo

  • milo

    The light has finally gone on in Solo’s mind, and it’s going to help him get to the next level.

    Cal is going to miss both Solo and Cobbs after the season.

  • bigdruid

    watching Solomon grow in talent, focus, and mental toughness has been one of the most fun things about the last few years. Really great to see it all come together for him this year.

  • Mitchie V

    Yeh, you wish Solomon had seen the light a little sooner, and regret the lost year for academics.

    But delighted he’s doing what he’s doing. Hope he can give Oregon some headaches tonight.

    Go Bears!

  • wehofx

    Ya, really has been a pleasure watching solo – and cobbs – develop and mature. In Monty I trust.

    Rebounding is and should be solo’s first priority but don’t forget the back to the basket moves he’s added to his game.

    Rebounding and D are the skills that’ll get him a legit shot at the nba.

    Go Bears!

  • rollonubears

    fortunately our free-thow-shooting woes won’t be an issue in this one as oregon will take about 20 trips to the line to our 8.