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Basketball: A must-win for Bears? You betcha

* 5 p.m. Sunday at Haas Pavilion (FoxSports1)

Is it too simple to suggest Cal must beat USC on Sunday evening or say goodbye to a potential NCAA tournament at-large bid?

Mathematically, a defeat wouldn’t eliminate the Golden Bears (17-9, 9-5).

Realistically, Cal cannot afford a second loss to the last-place Trojans (10-16, 1-12).

There just would be no way to explain away another defeat to a team that has beaten no one else since the calendar flipped to 2014.

To a team playing this weekend without suspended top scorer and rebounder Byron Wesley.

To a team that has won just one road game all season.

To a team coming off a 21-point loss at Stanford.

Cal began the Pac-12 schedule with five straight wins, three of them on the road. The Bears are 3-5 since then. That spiral of inconsistency began with a 77-69 loss to the Trojans.

“We’ve been up and down,” coach Mike Montgomery said after Cal’s 86-66 loss to UCLA on Wednesday. “We’ve played poorly at times and we’ve played well at times.

“Oddly enough, we’ve sort of played poorly at home. I don’t know what it is. We have a little bit of difficulty figuring out how to get ourselves ready to compete.”

There are four regular-season Pac-12 games remaining after Sunday, plus the conference tournament. Perhaps time enough to puff up a resume.

But the Bears travel to the desert next week for challenging games against Arizona and Arizona State. It only gets tougher.

This is not one they want to give away.

*****

A win over the Trojans will elevate the Bears into a tie for third place with Stanford and, possibly, ASU. The Sun Devils, also 8-5 in the conference, play at Utah.

*****

Senior point guard Justin Cobbs, with 485 career assists, is nine shy of moving even with Jason Kidd for fourth on Cal’s all-time list. Kidd, of course, accumulated his total in two seasons.

*****

Freshman guard Jordan Mathews is averaging 17.3 points in three games against the Pac-12′s Los Angeles schools. But he’s been much better this season in nine road games (13.3 ppg) than in 14 home games (6.6 ppg).

*****

Cal had won four straight over the Trojans before losing at Galen Center last month.

*****

USC is 8-1 when freshman forward Nikola Jovanovic scores in double digits. He had a career-high 23 points in the first game vs. Cal.

*****

The Trojans are 7-0 when holding opponents under 70 points. They are 3-16 in all other games.

Jeff Faraudo

  • GoBears49

    Cal is not 9 – 5, but 8 – 5, the same as Arizona St. You are correct that, if both of these teams win, they will be tied with Stanford.

    BTW, Cal is now ranked #7 in the league in RPI rankings, though they have a much better league record than #5 Oregon. Consensus is that, at the most, the Pac -12 will get six teams into the dance. I think it may only be five.

    http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/rpi

  • Wehofx

    If our Bears don’t get up for this game, I’ll be…very, very…disappointed.

    I had such high hopes for this team. I remain optimistic they’ll find themselves.

    As if on cue, Ucla lost to furd. Today’s la times story could be a clone of jf’s stories after losses to Ucla, asu and $c. Can’t get down early – have to respect “lesser” opponents – Hc reads riot act to no affect – lack of leadership etc.

    I’m sure the bruin boards are, as usual, calling for Alford’s dismissal.

  • Steve Fischer

    We are a 14 point favorite in this match. If we lose Monty should resign immediately.