Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
The UCLA Bruins (18-6, 8-3 Pac-12) travel to Berkeley to square off against the Cal Bears (14-9, 6-5 Pac-12) for the first leg of their Bay Area road trip this evening. Let’s take a look at which Golden Bears have the potential to foil UCLA’s plans for notching another conference victory.
It’s no secret that the Bruins have struggled mightily to control the glass this season. Cal forwards Richard Solomon and David Kravish each average just over six rebounds per game. But the two of them combined for 22 boards last time these two teams met, as the Golden Bears outrebounded the Bruins, 44-36. Not only did they rebound well, they DOMINATED the paint, pulling down a combined 13 rebounds. In that meeting, Solomon and Kravish also combined for 20 points, four better than their combined average. Bruins fans are well aware that defending the paint is a major weakness for this year’s team, which makes Cal’s two best front-court players much more effective.
Another key player on the Bears’ roster is junior guard Justin Cobbs, who averages 14.6 points per game. The Bruins defended him well back in January, holding him to 12 points and 33 percent shooting on 18 field goal attempts. Disrupting Cobbs, the second-leading scorer for Cal, was extremely vital to UCLA’s victory back in January and will be just as important this tonight. Cobbs also has shot an efficient 46 percent from the field this season, which UCLA will try to prevent him from achieving.
The main guy to watch for in this match-up is Cal’s star junior guard Allen Crabbe, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring with 19.8 points per game on a very efficient 48 percent clip from the field. UCLA had their troubles guarding him when the two teams met in Los Angeles, as Allen went off for 21 points on 10-of-21 shooting. Crabbe was one of the few players for Cal who had an efficient shooting night, and UCLA went on to win by 14.
Containing Crabbe would be a good start to assuring the Bruins get the season sweep of Cal. The Bruins must also keep a body on Kravish and Solomon when it comes to rebounding, and they will need to disturb Cobbs’ shot just like they did back in January. The Bruins can take this game in Berkeley, but they’ll need to concentrate on keeping the Golden Bears’ key players from taking over the game.