Starting off their season with a less-than-favorable record of 3-4, the Bears look to salvage their winning statistics in the Pac-12 tournament. On Dec. 5, the Bears will travel to Salt Lake City, Utah, to face off against the Runnin’ Utes for their second game in the Pac-12 tournament.
On paper, the Bears are no match for the Utes. Utah averages 74.6 points per game, as opposed to Cal’s 64.7. Along with the consistent ability to put points on the board and execute effective offense, Utah has also held its opponents’ 3-point percentages to a mere 26.2%, showcasing its perimeter defense. The Bears are not and have never been a 3-point shooting team — with the exception of a few breakout games. Their inability to hit shots and execute offensive plays combined with the Utes’ tight defense could spell disaster.
Of course, numbers and statistics aren’t the determining factors for a victory in any sports game. The Bears would have to bring their A-game if they want any hopes of defeating the Runnin’ Utes and overcome the difference in skill.
Senior forward Andre Kelly is the leading scorer and rebounder for Cal, averaging a near-double double 16.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Along with other consistent scorers, including fifth-year forward Grant Anticevich and graduate student guard Jordan Shepherd, Kelly will have to keep up this performance in order for the Bears to assert an early dominance in the Pac-12 tournament.
The Bears will have the relatively more beatable team of Oregon State at Haas Pavilion, looking to start strong in the tournament. Meanwhile, the Utes look to shake off a horrendous loss to USC at home.
The first half of the Utah and USC matchup saw Utah’s leading scorer Branden Carlson return to the locker room with an injury. Carlson did not return for the rest of the game. The Utes’ uncharacteristic blowout loss was an obvious testament to their dependence on their star scorer as well as the toughness of USC basketball.
Despite Utah’s clear talent and skill set, injuries have crippled its full potential: Carlson’s absence from the lineup only adds to its list of injured players: guards Gabe Madsen and Marco Anthony and forward Dusan Mahorcic.
Carlson’s status remains unknown for the Utes’ matchup against the Bears come Sunday. Seeing as Carlson averages 13.7 ppg, the Bears’ chances to a victory over this otherwise higher-caliber team will increase drastically if he is absent.
While the Utes are hunting for their first conference victory, the Bears go on the road after handing an upset to Fresno State, a team that was previously undefeated.
“We need to get healthy. That’s key for our team, because we’re just kind of patching it together right now,” said head coach Mark Fox. “We have to be sound and stable on the defensive end. As we grow offensively and get more depth.”
On their seven-hour plane ride to Utah, the Bears will have to toughen up both physically and mentally as they prepare for their second game of the Pac-12 tournament.