Cal men’s basketball still searching for first road win

Josh Kahen/Staff

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Same old, same old. It seems to be a favorite pastime for the Bears — just when Cal fans get their hopes up, the team lets them down.

After a rough end to nonconference play and a loss in its conference opener, Cal bounced back last week with wins against Washington and Washington State. This brought their record back up to 8-8 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12, a solid early start for the Bears.

But what happened Thursday was a different story. Cal let USC drop 88 points on them while managing to only score 56 points of its own, resulting in a 32-point defeat to the same team that managed to put up only 40 points against Washington.

To put it simply, you never know which version of this Bears team you’re going to get. The offense isn’t going to score that much — that’s almost a guarantee. But the defense is the wild card.

Cal will matchup against UCLA on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion. The Bears have a lot to be determined in the battle against the Bruins, as Cal seeks its first road win of the season with the goal of improving to 3-2 in conference play. With an 8-2 home record and 0-7 record outside of Berkeley, the Bears must fix their play on the road — and UCLA presents the perfect opportunity to do so.

The Bruins are also 8-9, but the team has struggled lately and is on a three-game losing streak. If the Cal defense that showed up against Washington and Washington State is present in Los Angeles on Sunday, the Bears have a good shot at winning, but if the defense that showed up at the Galen Center is what we see, there’s almost no chance.

UCLA’s scoring efforts are led by guard Chris Smith, who averages just over 12 points per game. Although he’s the only Bruin averaging double-figure scoring, six other UCLA players average over six points per game, making it difficult to plan for the offense.

The Bruins are averaging over five points per game more than Cal, and similarly to the Bears, they’ve had a much better home record than their away one. If Cal wants its first road win, it won’t come easily.

UCLA is currently tied for last in the Pac-12 with its 1-3 conference record, and Cal sits at fifth at 2-2. The Bears will have a lot to prove Sunday, as every game counts for more as the season progresses. They’ll be hoping to climb up in the rankings and the Bruins will be looking to get out of last place.

Fans will hope that Cal has a “one game at a time” approach to its matchup Sunday and can forget about what happened down in Los Angeles just a few days ago. If the Bears can regain their footing with a win over UCLA, they look to be in good shape early on in their conference schedule.

Jack Whaley covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @_jackdouglas_.