Basketball: Bears face big challenge vs. Bruins

* 5 p.m. Sunday at Pauley Pavilion (ESPNU)

During three days off since its 77-69 meltdown Wednesday night at USC, Cal presumably took notice that stars Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams aren’t the only UCLA Bruins they must cope with on Sunday at Pauley Pavilion.

The battle for second place in the Pac-12 will require the Bears to quell the UCLA bench, which was remarkably productive Thursday night in a 91-74 win over Stanford.

How’s this for contributions from reserves Tony Parker, Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford: 40 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 8 steals.

Twin starters David and Travis Wear, who combined for six points in 27 minutes, could have stayed home and UCLA still would have dispatched the Cardinal.

Cal (14-5, 5-1) must derail the Bruins (15-4, 4-2) or surrender sole possession of second place in the conference standings. A victory would also allow the Bears to stay just a game back of top-ranked Arizona, which visits the Bay Area next week.

Parker, a 6-foot-9, 255-pound sophomore forward, was a beast against Stanford, scoring a career-high 22 points on 9 of 14 from the field. He had five offensive rebounds, helping the Bruins to a 46-12 edge in points in the paint.

Cal had problems of its own Wednesday against a young, unheralded big man. Freshman Nikola Jovanovic, a 6-10 native of Serbia, lit up the Bears with a career-best 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

Although Parker is bulkier and doesn’t have the shooting range Jovanovic showed, both players were effective converting drop-off passes from teammates who penetrated the defense.

Cal coach Mike Montgomery, who labeled the Bears’ defensive performance at USC as “abysmal,” noted in particular that USC repeatedly blasted past defenders at the point of attack.

UCLA will try to do the same thing with Anderson, a 6-9 sophomore point guard who seems able to glide into the heart of defenses, and Alford, his smaller, quicker backup. Those two combined for 16 of UCLA’s 23 assists against Stanford, often getting into the lane, then finding someone with an easier shot.

Anderson, perhaps the leader for Pac-12 Player of the Year, averages 15.4 points per game (11th in the conference), 8.8 rebounds (4th), 6.7 assists (1st) and 1.84 steals (4th).

He holds the throttle for one of the nation’s best offensive teams. The Bruins average 84.7 points, shoot 50.3 percent from the field and lead the league in assists at 17.8 per game.

Offensively, Cal must take care of the basketball against a UCLA defense that will switch from zone to man, but did a great job of clogging the key and creating tipped balls against Stanford. The Bruins forced 19 turnovers and turned them into a 22-1 edge in points off turnovers.

That’s just how UCLA wants to play it: The Bruins top the Pac-12 with 10.9 steals per game and a turnover margin of plus-4.89.

Cal had just six turnovers at USC, but the Bruins will pose a different challenge. Point guard Justin Cobbs, who had 22 points and six assists at USC, needs another strong game.

Jeff Faraudo

  • Steve Fischer

    Coming into this game the teams have remarkably close records. UCLA is #22 in Sagarin and Cal is #40. Both are 0-2 vs the Top 25, and both are 3-2 vs the Top 50. UCLA and Cal all beat 3 of their common opponents, Oakland, Nevada, and Stanford however UCLA beat each by a wider margin. UCLA slaughtered the 4 common opponent USC 107-73 and umm we had an off night. Are these telling, and crucial data? Nah just some illumination for a Sunday morning as the sun rises over the ocean in Texas.

  • Juancho

    Excellent post StevenTexas

  • Will

    I’m shocked at the amount of vitriol being directed to Steve Alford so early in his tenure by disgruntled Bruins fans. He may not have been the best candidate, but to take a dump on him so early seems unnecessarily hasty.

  • Steve Fischer

    and then again he may HAVE been the best candidate available. Alford is a class act, and obviously I have followed his career from his playing days at Indiana. IF Bruins fans are whining they should trade coaches with USC. I bet USC would go for it.

  • Will

    A certain Bruins blog has been calling him TIARA – “The Indiana Alleged Rape Apologist”, and mercilessly calls him “scum” and other incredibly non-juvenile nicknames. He’s also been frequently accused of nepotism for playing his son a lot.

  • Eric

    Sounds familiar.

  • Will

    Are you referring to Bear fans re: SonnyD?

  • Eric

    Sonny D would be one example of many. In today’s sporting world, the fans have relative expectations that make it very difficult for the next coach if he doesn’t meet them. UCLA b-ball always has the Wooden problem, so unless they are competing immediately for a Final Four slot, they will be lobbing grenades at the coach. Charlie Strong at Texas will face this. The guy at Florida has probably taken more heat this season than any other coach (like Cal, tremendous injuries, a very difficult schedule, and an empty cupboard of talent).
    Sonny D had an analogous issue. After several years of success, Tedford grinded the team down and walked away with bags of cash and a stadium with a huge debt problem, so everyone was expecting immediate and meaningful success. Obviously, that did not happen and by mid-season huge numbers were calling for him to be fired. It only got worse as the season tail-spinned downward. If he does not produce success in 2014 better than where he should have been in 2013, I’m guessing he gets fired.
    By contrast, Tedford in 2002 was in the perfect place. The team was coming off a horrible season and was facing sanctions. But he had a veteran, highly recruited QB and a very O-line. His barely over .500 season was lauded as a massive success (probably rightly so).
    Relative expectations are funny sometimes.

  • Will

    Yep couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve been patient with SonnyD, though I certainly understand fans frustrations with him.