Buffaloes buffaloed last time, but can Bears bounce back?

Josh Kahen/Staff

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There’s truly no place like home, and that saying resonates well with the Bears this campaign. The blue and gold sit at 10-5 at home, but are 1-11 outside of Haas Pavilion this season.

After an embarrassing loss at Washington on Saturday, the Bears are back in Berkeley, where they have shined all year. To start off their final homestand of the 2019-20 season, the Bears will host the No. 21 Buffaloes, hoping to climb the Pac-12 standings with just four games left before the tournament.

Colorado has thrived all season from behind the arc, ranking 25th in the nation in three-point shooting. The offense is a machine, to say the least. The Buffaloes boast three scorers averaging double digits and a team that can spread the floor. Cal’s strong defense has a lot on its plate Thursday.

Guards McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey will be a focus for the Bears defensively, just as they were in these teams’ last encounter. Wright is averaging 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, leading the way for the Buffs with his solid all-around game. Bey contributes a ton as well, averaging almost a double-double with 13.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

Last time out, Cal had a problem containing those stars, as Bey poured in 21 and Wright Jr. added 17 of his own, combining for more than half of Colorado’s 71 points. The Bears actually did play a solid defensive game overall, as they held the Buffaloes to 7-24 from the three-point line, but the blue and gold only managed 65 points of their own and ultimately fell short.

Cal has to fix its scoring troubles if it wants to take down Colorado. It’s already shown that it can control the defensive end, but can the Bears step up and score when they need to most to upset the No. 2 team in the Pac-12?

It’s impossible to know. Cal ranks 338th in the nation in scoring out of 353 teams; at 338, Cal is the 16th worst team in the nation. The Bears have been much better at home, however, and one of the most obvious things about this team this season is that they’re unpredictable, and they’re here to compete.

Cal is 5-9 in conference play, but out of those 14 games, eight of them have been decided by 10 or fewer points. The blue and gold have shown that they can battle it out no matter the odds, with a solid defense and a team energy that never backs down.

Colorado is currently on a four-game winning streak against Cal dating back to the 2016-17 season, a record the Bears will be looking to put an end to. Led by guard Matt Bradley’s 17.4 points per game, Cal will be hoping to put some more points on the board this time around. In Cal’s previous game in which it lost to Washington, Bradley was the Bears’ lone double-digit scorer with 14.

It will be tough to bounce back from their loss against the Huskies, as a 35 point loss is never an easy thing to get over, but there is at least one positive to come out of that game. Cal shot 16-16 from the free-throw line in the first half, a sensational number that would usually have a positive result.

If the Bears can continue playing solid defense, draw fouls, sink free throws at an elite rate and score from the field well, they may be able to outscore Colorado and pull off the upset.

Regardless of what occurs on the court, this game will hold a little more value to Cal, as it will be the 10th annual Pete Newell Classic. This year, Bears great Shareef Abdur-Rahim will be presented the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award in a special halftime presentation, honoring his strong career at Cal in which he was crowned Pac-10 player of the year in 1996.

Tipoff will take place on Thursday at 6:00 p.m.