* 8 p.m. Wednesday at Galen Center (ESPNU)
For Cal seniors Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon, this weekend is the final trip home to Los Angeles during their college careers. “It’s almost over,” fifth-year senior point guard Justin Cobbs said. “It’s just crazy.”
But games Wednesday night at USC and Sunday at UCLA represent more than a homecoming.
The Bears (14-4, 5-0 Pac-12) enter the week sharing first place with Arizona, the nation’s top-ranked team. The Wildcats visit Berkeley a week from Saturday, but for that matchup to have maximum importance Cal must first take care of business in L.A.
USC (9-9, 0-5) resides alone in last place in the Pac-12, but coach Mike Montgomery warns the Trojans are not helpless.
“In defense, they’ve had a tough schedule,” he said. “They’ve played at Colorado, at Utah, at UCLA, and they’ve played Arizona. Sometimes the schedule skews where you are.”
Under new coach Andy Enfield, who engineered Florida Gulf Coast’s miracle run into the NCAA Sweet 16 last season, the Trojans want to play uptempo basketball. But in five conference games, they have gotten no closer than 18 points to any opponent.
“I think they’re probably searching a little bit as far as what is best for them,” Montgomery said. “They’ve had glimpses of being pretty good. They beat Dayton, which beat us. We know they’re capable.”
Still, this is a game the Bears should win, must win. If you want to compete at the top of the league, a loss — even on the road — to one of the worst teams in the conference doesn’t compute.
The Bears, 5-0 in the conference for the first time since 2003, have won four straight in the series, including the past two meetings at the Galen Center.
The Bears’ trek to Los Angeles actually is two trips.
Cal will return home immediately after the USC game in order for players to attend classes Thursday and Friday. The team will take Thursday off, then prep for UCLA on Friday and Saturday before flying back down to L.A. after practice Saturday.
Montgomery said this will be the only time Cal returns home between games on a long road doubleheader.
Solomon and Kentucky freshman Julius Randle are the only two players from the BCS conferences to average a double-double. Only 11 players in all of Division I were doing so entering this week.
Solomon is producing 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds and has six double-doubles. He ranks 12th nationally in rebounding.
Junior guard Ricky Kreklow (broken hand) remains out at least one more week. Montgomery said he still had not been cleared to practice 100 percent.
USC is the least prolific and least proficient 3-point shooting team in the conference, having made just 84 on .298 accuracy through 18 games. The Trojans also are 11th in the Pac-12 in free throw shooting (.648) and last in turnover margin (minus-3.0).
And so far, at least, Enfield’s presence hasn’t paid off at the gate: USC’s average attendance of 4,140 for nine home games is third-worst in the Pac-12.