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UCLA @ California Preview

The Bruins venture into Berkeley to take on a suddenly dangerous looking Cal squad

Christian Petersen

When Cal came to Old Pauley Under Glass to open the conference slate, we noted that this was one of the few teams with a thinner bench than the Bruins, and that basically came to pass with heavily utilized guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs playing all but three available minutes in that contest. While Crabbe ended up with his quota of points at a good shooting percentage, it was Cobbs that seemed to suffer under the workload, needing 18 shots to get 12 points. Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad took over late in the second half offensively to put away the Golden Bears by a 79-65 margin.

A month has passed, and Cal's lineup will look similar except they will have senior guard Brandon Smith who missed the first matchup between these teams. Smith will not be looked at as a threat to score, but it's clear that coach Mike Montgomery trusts him to provide stability to his team when Crabbe, Cobbs, or Tyrone Wallace are on the bench.

Whereas UCLA used their HUGE win in McKale a few weeks ago to promptly fall flat on their faces, Cal, coming off of their own victory over the Wildcats on the road will hope to use that win to claw back into the conference race. Given the way everything has played out so far, all hope is not lost for the 6-5 Golden Bears, but time is running out quickly.

One particular note from the recap of their game against Arizona should give the Bruins pause:

Cal coach Mike Montgomery has been reluctant to use a zone defense much this season because, frankly, his team hasn't been very good at it.

After the Bears had some success with the zone late against Arizona State, he decided to give it a go to open the second half against No. 7 Arizona.

It couldn't have worked out any better, sending another top-10 team to a loss.Sparked by its zone, Cal went on a big run to open the second half and held on behind the shooting of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs for a 77-69 victory Sunday night over the Wildcats, the sixth top-10 team to lose this week.

"We had a rhythm and communication," Montgomery said. "They had some penetration, but it took them out of their norm. We haven't been very good at it this season and it was a matter of game and circumstance."

An effective zone is probably not what UCLA wants to see right now, not only because of our traditional weakness under Ben Howland in attacking a zone of any type, but because it also would appear to play right into the best game plan right now for beating the Bruins. It would allow Cal to sag off of Larry Drew II, who to his credit has been shooting better lately if you ignore the game against the Trogans. It also would not particularly hurt them in an area where we are strong: rebounding. I can't imagine Coach Montgomery is overly concerned at this point about losing the rebounding battle to the Bruins, and this will free him to unleash his zone defense if he sees fit.

Cal's game plan on the other end of the floor should look mostly like it did the first time around; heavy utilization of Crabbe and Cobbs, and they'll simply hope Cobbs has a better shooting game this time around, which he very well may if he doesn't have to play virtually the entire game with the return of Smith.

UCLA's game plan? Well, it kind of reminds me of every opening of Pinky and the Brain from Animaniacs:

Pinky: "Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
The Brain: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to (outscore the other team)!"