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Cal Men’s Basketball Preview: Golden Bears Look to Avoid Home Blowout to Colorado

California victory would break the seven-match losing streak

NCAA Basketball: Legends Classic
Justice Sueing is one of the most consistent scorers for California. He scores about 40 percent of his field goals.
Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The California Golden Bears (5-13, 0-6 Pac-12) return to Haas Pavilion Thursday night to face off against the third-bottom Colorado Buffaloes (10-7, 1-4 Pac-12). Colorado’s sole conference win came against a depleted Washington State Cougars roster on Jan. 10.

The Golden Bears’ return to familiar confines will likely be good news to California Head Coach Wyking Jones. His side has averaged 83 points per game when playing at home, up from the season average of 71 points per game.

As California focuses on earning its first conference win since Feb. 3, 2018, the Golden Bears should not ignore the scout report. Colorado expects to welcome back leading scorer McKinley Wright.

The Colorado sophomore guard suffered a shoulder injury on Jan. 12 against the Washington Huskies and is wearing a brace to keep his shoulder stable. Before being sidelined, Wright averaged 13.6 points and started every match for the Buffaloes.

“I’m kind of used to it,” Wright said about his brace in a statement furnished by University of Colorado Athletics. “It limits me from extending my arm too far back, which is how I dislocated it against Washington. It was hard the first day; I couldn’t breathe trying to run with this thing across my chest. But I’m getting better. I’m comfortable and ready to go.”

Whether California is comfortable and ready to go remains to be seen. Colorado won the last two matches against the Golden Bears, but both victories were in Boulder, Colo. The Buffaloes have not won in Berkeley, Calif., since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

Projected Colorado Buffaloes Starters

  1. Lucas Siewert, forward: 11.5 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, 1.2 assists per game
  2. McKinley Wright IV, guard: 12.9 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, 5.3 assists per game
  3. Tyler Bey, guard: 11.4 points per game, 9.1 rebounds per game, 0.5 assists per game
  4. Shane Gatling, guard: 9.2 points per game, 1.5 rebounds per game, 1.3 assists per game
  5. D’Shawn Schwartz, guard: nine points per game, four rebounds per game, one assist per game

Key Colorado Reserves

  1. Evan Battey, forward: 7.8 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, one assist per game
  2. Namon Wright, guard: seven points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, 0.9 assists per game
  3. Daylen Kountz, guard: 5.9 points per game, 1.1 rebounds per game, 1.2 assists per game

Golden Strategies

  1. Do not discount the injured Wright. While Wright is still adapting to play post-injury, the point guard practiced with his team the last two days and is expected to start. Missing his first game since his freshman year of high school, the point guard will look to make an impact in his first match back.
  2. Deny Colorado any second chance opportunities. Despite their recent losing slide, California has increased its rebound-count about 14 percent in conference play (nearly 32 per match) compared to non-conference play (28 per game). Collecting more offensive boards, especially in the paint, may be the key to victory for the Golden Bears.
  3. Spread the wealth beyond Sueing. In the recent road trip to Washington, California forward Justice Sueing played lights-out and was the only player to score double-digits in both matches. Darius McNeill, Matt Bradley and Paris Austin, all averaging double-digits in conference play this season, need to improve their consistency—and Thursday’s contest would be the ideal time to start.

Following the Bears

The matchup between California and Colorado will tipoff Thursday at 8 p.m. PT and will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks. The play-by-play analysis will also be available on the California Golden Bears Sports Network on KGO 810 AM and through the TuneIn radio streaming application.