No. 23 UCLA (20-5, 9-3) at Cal (17-8, 8-4)
When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Haas Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (JB Long, Don MacLean, Ashley Adamson)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)
No. 1: Which Cal team will show up? The Bears may be the Pac-12’s most perplexing team. They gave USC its lone Pac-12 victory after winning five straight to start conference play, only to turn around 10 days later and knocked off undefeated Arizona. They then proceeded to lose to Stanford at home by 11 points.
Cal is trending up a bit again with dominant road win at Washington, but the Huskies are on track for their worst record in six years. The Bears do score 59.1 percent of their points on 2-pointers — the second-highest mark in the league — so they’ll need 6-foot-10 forward Richard Solomon to establish himself inside and the rest of the team’s jumpers to fall. In eight losses this season, Cal shot 40.8 percent from the field, down nearly six from their season average.
On paper, UCLA enters tonight with the clear edge. The Bruins have suffered lapses this season, but that’s happened most often on the back end of road trips. Even if they get off to a slow start, they’ve proven that they can flip the switch coming out of halftime.
No. 2: Cal’s fifth starter. The Bears haven’t found a consistent contributor to finish out its first-string unit, with Jordan Mathews, Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow getting 12, nine and seven starts, respectively. Injuries to Bird and Kreklow disrupted the lineup for weeks, but the former has seen the court just 29 minutes in his past three games — hardly building off his 12-point second half against UCLA.
Kreklow, meanwhile, has played 55 minutes in his last two and taken 17 shots. His skill set may also be well suited to face the Bruins, particularly against a second-string unit that utilizes more zone defense. The former Missouri transfer has taken 63 shots this season; 45 of them have come from beyond the arc. He’s only scored in double digits twice this season, but just hitting a couple of key 3-pointers could swing a close game.
UCLA allows more 3-pointers than any other team in the Pac-12, though they’ve limited opponents to a fourth-best 33.5 percent on those attempts.
No. 3: Board advantage. Despite the presence of forwards Richard Solomon and David Kravish (17.7 combined rebounds per game), Cal’s performance on the offensive glass has been lackluster. Through conference play, the Bears are just sixth in rebounding margin (+0.2) and ninth in offensive rebounding percentage (28.1).
The Bruins, whose best rebounders are their starting point guard and wing, are third in rebounding margin (+2.8) and fourth in offensive rebounding percentage (31.1).
UCLA also nearly erased Kravish in their first meeting this season, holding the 6-foot-9 junior to seven points on 2-of-6 shooting — his worst showing against a Pac-12 opponent. Kravish takes 70 percent of his attempts from the field on 2-point jumpers, making him a good defensive matchup for either Wear twin. Bruins coach Steve Alford has made a point of praising David Wear’s defense in particular over the past few weeks.
Cal starting lineup
F – Richard Solomon, Sr., 6-10, 235: 11.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.3 spg
F – David Kravish, Jr., 6-9, 221: 11.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg
G – Tyrone Wallace, So., 6-5, 190: 12.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.9 apg
G – Ricky Kreklow, Jr., 6-6, 210: 5.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 37.8 3P%
G – Justin Cobbs, Sr., 6-3, 190: 16.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 6.0 apg