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UCLA/USC Preview: Bears Facing Tough Weekend

January 20, 2021

The Cal men’s basketball team will not have long to enjoy last weekend’s impressive comeback win at Utah. Looming is the most imposing home weekend the Bears have had in years.

UCLA (11-2, 7-0 Pac-12) and USC (11-3, 5-2) come to town and meet the Bears (7-8, 2-6) Thursday and Saturday respectively. UCLA is one of the hottest teams in the country and USC had won six straight before it was upset by Oregon State in Corvallis on Tuesday.

Cal’s leading scorer Matt Bradley has missed the last four games and six of the last eight with an ankle injury. Although he did not sound optimistic, Cal head coach Mark Fox did not rule Bradley out for this weekend, He noted that Bradley did not participate in Cal’s five-on-five live drills Wednesday, then was asked if that meant the junior guard was out for this weekend.

“We take it day by day,” Fox said. “I am not going to say yes, I am not going to say no. I think we will talk about it every morning like we do with our medical people, 


Winning games and championships is nothing new in Westwood. With occasional brief downtimes, the Bruins have been at or near the top since John Wooden started winning NCAA championships six decades ago, But this UCLA team, currently ranked 24th in the AP poll, differs from most of its predecessors. It has no superstar. There is no Kareem Abdul Jabbar/Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Sidney Wicks, Reggie Miller, Ed O’Bannon, etc. leading the way. This is a team of equals.

The Bruins have five players who average at least ten points per game, and that does include senior guard Chris Smith, who was lost for the season earlier this month with a torn knee ligament. 

“We take pride in sharing the ball and getting other guys open, ” sophomore guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. told the Los Angeles Times. 

Jaquez, who leads the team in scoring average at 13.4 points per game, is unlikely to leave school early next year for the NBA. The same holds true for virtually the entire roster. 

“We don’t have the first pick in the draft running around on our team,” second-year head coach Mick Cronin said. “We don’t overwhelm people with athleticism. So everybody on our team has got to contribute.”

Point guard Tyger Campbell, who has dished out 83 assists, most of anyone in the conference in the 13 games, is the prime facilitator and as close to an MVP as the Bruins have. 

“We’re not a good team unless he’s playing well,” Cronin said.

The Bruins like to set up a high post with Jaquez and Cody Riley or take it down low through Jalen Hill, who also has 13 blocked shots. Guard Dave Singleton is almost instant offense off the bench, he is 20-for-40 from 3-point range. 

“It makes it tough for teams to sort of scout,” forward Jules Bernard said, “because we have weapons all over the floor.”

Fox agrees. “They have so many weapons,” Fox said Wednesday. “They have scoring everyplace. A lot of teams have talented players who can score. But not every team has a great point guard who is getting them the ball.”

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Campbell scores two

Fox also pointed to another dimension for the Bruins. “As much attention as their offense is getting this year, they can beat you with their defense, too,” he said. “They are as complete of a team as we have in the league right now. They can win on both ends.”


  • UCLA leads the series 142-103 and has won seven straight against the Bears, including the last two at Haas.
  • Earlier this season, UCLA defeated Cal., 76-56.  Chris Smith had 21 points (7-for-12 FGs) and Campbell finished with 11 points and a season-high 12 assists
  • The Bruins are 7-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 1993-94. They are 14-1 in their last 15 conference games.
  • Nine players on the 14-man roster have each scored at least 10 points in at least once in their career. 
  • Cal won against Utah with a marvelous second-half rally, but that won’t be easy against UCLA. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Bruins have gone 73-9 when leading at halftime.

UCLA leads the conference in 3-point field goal percentage at 38.6.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Mobley scores


  • The Trojans play Stanford on Thursday afternoon on what has become the Cardinal’s home court in Santa Cruz.
  • USC won the only meeting with Cal last year in L.A>, 88-56.
  • It has won the five with Cal, including the last two at Haas, but the Bears lead the all-time series 136-127.
  • Freshman Evan Mobley was the top recruit in the country last year according to some sources. The 7-footer leads the Trojans in scoring at 14.0 points per game and has blocked 42 shots. He has been conference freshman of the week three times,
  • Teaming with older brother Isiah, who stands a mere 6-10, Evan is part of one of the nation’s taller front lines.
  • USC’s three losses have been by a combined total of 15 points.
  • In Tuesday’s 58-56 loss in Corvallis, a makeup of a game that was postponed because of COVID issues on the USC roster, the Trojans did not score in the last two and half minutes,” There’s been stretches in certain games this year where we go into these droughts,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “You can’t pinpoint them on one person or two people. It’s a team effort and we need to keep working on it.”
  • With Evan Mobley leading the way, USC has 81 blocked shots, 5.8 per game which is the eighth-best in the nation.
  • USC gets to the free-throw line a lot, but without much success. The Trojans have 338 free throw attempts but have made just 207. That is a Pac-12 worst 64.7 percent. 
  • The point guard is Tahj Eady, a grad transfer from Santa Clara who averages 12.5 points and 2.7 assists per game. ” Tahj has played big, big minutes for us,” Enfield told the media this week, describing Eaddy as a “developing” point guard. “He’s more of a scorer right now and we need that. We need our guards to score the ball, our big guys get so much attention.”


Bears Use Massive Second Half to Take Down Utah


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