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Basketball: With 2nd place on the line, Bears promise they’ll to be ready for UCLA

* Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

A crowd of more than 11,000 will be on hand at Haas Pavilion to watch Cal take on No. 23 UCLA, and maybe that will provide more motivation than . . . a large pepperoni?

Asked this week whether a 76-64 loss at Pauley Pavilion last month will fuel the Bears, coach Mike Montgomery laughed and suggested, “Our guys, pizza fuels them.”

In other words, he can’t always get a read on when this team will be ready to burst from the chute, fired up to play.

“I would think that just given how poorly we played on that L.A. weekend,” he said, “there would be some kind of `we can play better than that’ thought process.

“Getting the road sweep (in Washington) puts us back in the conversation, there should be some excitement from that. UCLA’s very good.

Senior Justin Cobbs wants to assure his coach the Bears will be ready.

“It’s time to play,” he said. “We’re fighting for a Pac-12 championship now. If you don’t have a little fire under you, something is wrong. We’ll come out aggressive.

“We know the importance of this game.”

With wins at Washington State and Washington, Cal (17-8, 8-4) has moved into a tie for third place with Arizona State, just one game back of second-place UCLA (20-5, 9-3). The Bears are just two games behind Pac-12 leader Arizona.

Certainly the players ought to have a bad taste in their mouths from their performance in Los Angeles. They lost 77-69 at USC — still the only conference victory by the last-place Trojans — and failed to shoot 40 percent in either loss.

At UCLA, the Bears converted a season-low 34.5 percent and had their poorest 3-point shooting outing (19.0 percent) of any game in which they attempted at least 10 from beyond the arc.

The Bruins are better known for their offense (83.1 ppg) than defense, but Cobbs said UCLA was the aggressor in the first meeting.

“Last time they were a little more physical than us. They kind of pushed us around,” he said. “We can’t let that happen again.”

“We’ve got to match it,” sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace added. “A lot of times there was stuff we thought should be called. But if it’s not called, you’ve got to adjust the way you play and you’ve got to do those things, too, We’ve just got to fight back.”

The Bruins present myriad challenges, starting with 6-foot-9 sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson, whose set of season statistics — 15.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.6 steals per game — makes him “without question” a serious contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year, according to Montgomery.

The 6-5 Wallace drew the primary defensive assignment against Anderson and struggled to contain him. As usual, Anderson filled the box score: 17 points, 12 rebounds, five assists.

“It’s a tough assignment, but I’m looking forward to it,” Wallace said. “I didn’t play so well against the L.A. schools, so I’m looking forward to going out there, being aggressive, playing well and getting these wins.”

Anderson also brings versatility to the floor. When the Bruins sub and move Bryce Alford to the point, the Bruins often switch to a zone defense and Anderson slides to the power forward spot.

Jeff Faraudo

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Its “too” not “to”, but whatever, a rare typo in the illustrious and generally well-written work of Mr. Jeff Faraudo. ;)

    Looking forward to tonight’s game. I’m hoping for some outrageous (and drunken!) energy lead by the students but embraced and echoed by the blue hairs – I plan on leaving the building hoarse.

    We will need Bird or Mathews to step up and score some points tonight – if they can combine for 20 then I think the Bears have an excellent chance. But defense will most likely determine the winner – it usually does. Let’s hope Monty has prepped the squad well, but more importantly, let’s hope that the team leaders get the squad fired up BEFORE the game so we can avoid the dastardly yet common “slow start” mentioned in this article.

    Go Bears!

  • GoBears49

    I’m going to watch Anderson play tonight. Didn’t know he was 6’9″. Can’t think of many guys that tall that play point guard. Only one I can think of is Magic Johnson. Maybe also the guy who played for the Lakers and the Clippers who was married to one of the Kardashians (just looked him up — he is Lamar Odom, who is 6’10″ and indeed play some point guard).

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Gobears, I (begrudgingly) appreciate your appreciation for a member of the baby bears, but let’s hold up on any Magic comparisons. Magic’s height was only one (minor) aspect of his game. He (along with Riley) drove those Laker teams of the 80′s to greatness. His (and Riley’s) leadership played out in ways you would never even see on the court. Anderson may well pan out in the NBA, but he’s not yet even at the level of a michael carter williams in my book.

    Go Bears!

  • GoBears49

    BlakeStreetBear,

    If you read my post carefully, I was not comparing Anderson’s ABILITY to Magic Johnson’s, but was only searching for someone as TALL as Anderson that played point guard. Could only think of two. Would appreciate your adding to that list, if you know of any. I think it’s very unusual for someone as tall as 6’8″ to play point guard. You could also let me know if you disagree with that.

  • Mitch

    Hope the crowd is loud. Wish I could be there. Should be a dandy!

  • covinared

    Another game missed because of PAC 12 network. When will charter and P12 cut a deal? Its been over 2 years. I get a lot of espnu games but this is a big one.

  • covinared

    this guy blake is argumentative.

  • BlakeStreetBear

    No way, not at all. I never argue with anyone. You are TOTALLY wrong.

    ;)

    gotcha?

  • BlakeStreetBear
  • 707 Bear

    Consistently inconsistent team.

    Which team will show up?

    Speaking of showing up, Juancho, where are you?

    Go Bears

  • covinared

    Sorry. I was wrong. Games against socal teams amp me up. I am not my usual bay area mellow dude.

  • covinared

    Bird put us back in the game in LA, then he ran out of gas. Maybe tonight.