Cal (8-5, 0-1 Pac-12) is coming off a tough loss in Pauley Pavilion to the streaking Bruins. The Trojans (6-8, 1-0) toppled Stanford in a close, two-point contest. After a hot 6-0 start, the Golden Bears have now lost five of their last seven and their last two; it’s early, but Mike Montgomery’s boys need to do more than “keep it competitive” if they want to go to the Big Dance. USC, picked in the preseason to finish ninth in the conference, is rebuilding and simply hoping to distract the school from the epic failings of its football team. Needless to say, tickets are still available.
Cal Needs . . .
- Threes. After a horrendous 0-13 performance against UCLA, the Bears have now gone two games without a trifecta. The last one came before Christmas! I would’ve tweaked my wish list had I known this was going to happen.
- Bench scoring production. Injuries have limited Cal’s depth, and coach Montgomery is working with a tighter rotation. However, in these last two losses, the bench has been outscored 25-6. A return by senior guard Brandon Smith tonight would provide some punch to the lineup.
- To work the paint. Thursday night, the Bruins got to the line 31 times, while the Bears managed only eight trips to the charity stripe. It’s called a free throw. Free is almost always good, and this is no exception.
Cal Should Keep . . .
- Crashing the boards. Despite their lack of size, Cal has been pretty good on the glass. Not only did they win the rebounds game against UCLA (which, unfortunately, is not an actual game), they held a plus-nine advantage on the offensive side. This time it won’t be as easy, especially with USC’s 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon patrolling the paint.
- Running the offense through the backcourt. This one’s pretty obvious. Allen Crabbe is leading the Pac-12 in scoring, and Justin Cobbs is seventh; together, they average 37 points per game. Freshman guard Tyrone Wallace has been solid- he’s aggressive to the basket and smart with the ball (for a freshman, of course).
- Faith in the system. Montgomery’s half-court offense is one of the best in the country, and he is excellent at getting the most out of his talent. Living through a few seasons with Ben Braun, Monty is most certainly an upgrade. Of course, for the system to reach its full potential, they will need to make some threes.
These Bears have superior talent and a better coach. They’ve lost two in a row, and with the start of conference play, I can assure you that Montgomery has them very aware of the stakes. It’s early, so a USC victory shouldn’t send anyone into full panic mode, but it would certainly raise some eyebrows. Cal should prevail in this one.
The game is on FSN and the Pac-12 Network at 8 PM PST.
Topics: Allen Crabbe, Brandon Smith, Cal Bears, Cal Bears Basketball, Cal Golden Bear, California Bears, California Bears Basketball, California Golden Bears, California Golden Bears Basketball, Dewayne Dedmon, Justin Cobbs, Mike Montgomery, NCAA, Pac-12 Basketball, Robert Thurman, Tyrone Wallace, USC Trojans, USC Trojans Basketball, USC Trojans Men's Basketball