11

Basketball: Bears ready for big L.A. weekend

* 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.

Jeff Faraudo

  • Steve Fischer

    USC is almost as hopeless as its fans. Not only are they 0-5 in Pac12 play but they lose by an average of 22 points a game- their closest game was an 18 poiunt loss to UTAH. There are always the possibilities of overconfidence and looking past USC but that’s the reason we have a seasoned coach. Arizona plays Colorado so there is a tiny chance we could be in 1st place at the end of the evening. Tiny.. but real.

  • Rollonubears

    They beat Dayton, and this is a home game. We lost to Dayton and we’re on the road. I hope this is an easy W, but my gut tells me it’ll be a battle, and history tells me we will blow it. I really hope we don’t have a letdown. We need this one badly. How do we match up height-wise? At least we have almost full health. That will make a difference.

  • Rollonubears

    By the way, where the H is our defensive coordinator? The suspense is killing me. But the delay has got to be killing recruiting.

  • Eric

    Rollon – I agree. I am fearful about this game – too much risk of looking ahead to UCLA, we’ve have a number of games we were have poor starts in the first half, we’re now a target as co-leader, and U$C is doing terrible and badly needs a win.
    As part of the 20 wins we need to make the tourney, I had penciled this as a W. Granted, I had penciled Oregon away as a L, so we’re already plus 1, but this would be a very necessary win to give us comfort.

  • steve sceeles

    Why did Ahmaad Rorie leave Montverde?

  • Gobears49

    Would be nice to know, Jeff, how long Kreklow needs to practice before he can play in games and, then, what percent of his top play he’ll able to perform at when he first plays in games.

    We need to get Kreklow back for some important games coming up. Seems he definitely will not be ready for Arizona on Feb 1 but I hope he will be for the game at their place on Feb. 26. With Kreklow returning, and hopefully an improving Behrens, Cal could be set to make a strong NCAA run, especially if they get a good seed. But they need a lot of wins, particularly some good ones (one against Arizona would definitely help), to get a good seed.

    BTW, whose idea is it to schedule a Wednesday/Sunday swing through any Pac 12 area? Is that all for TV purposes? If so, that’s a bit too much time off from school, even if Cal is returning home on Wednesday night

  • Milo

    Solo is working himself into draft position. Really nice to see it happen.

  • Eric

    By the way, I was shocked to see the attendance figure for U$C. Bandwagon, anyone?

  • BlakeStreetBear

    The time between games is a MASSIVE BOOST to the program, despite the studies etc. Giving Monty TWO EXTRA days to prepare for ucla is a massive difference maker, even if the team will not practice Thursday, the coaches will be picking apart the ucla squad. Monty is the best coach in the league and any extra prep he gets is a huge boost to the team.
    Go Bears!!

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Yes. He will play more than Crabbe in the league. Saw that one coming. Its has a lot to do with attitude, and Solomon sure seems to get that. In fact this whole team is pout free! What a joy they have become to watch. Crush the toejams! Go Bears!

  • Gobears49

    I disagree. He has a high shooting percentage but a lot of his baskets are dunks. Get him away from the rim and he is not that good a shooter, though he’s much better than he used to be. He’ll get a shot at the NBA but he’s going to have to get better at shooting to make a squad there.