Bears look to hand Buffs first Pac-12 setback

California will put its undefeated home record at stake against Colorado's 3-0 conference start on Thursday.

BERKELEY, Calif. – The presence of Colorado at the top of the Pac-12 standings comes as a surprise to most, but not California head coach Mike Montgomery.

"No, no reason to be surprised," Montgomery said Wednesday morning. "(Colorado head coach) Tad (Boyle) has done a really nice job. He's got a veteran team, three senior starters that have been around."

The Golden Bears found out last season how good the Buffaloes can be, falling 89-72 in the second round of the NIT in Boulder. But after losing sophomore guard Alec Burks to the NBA, where he was selected No. 12 overall by the Utah Jazz, Colorado was largely written off.

They have responded by winning their first three conference games, the only undefeated team left in Pac-12 play, 11-4 overall.

"Anything can happen when a bunch of guys go out and they play well together. When you are well coached, it's easy to play well," forward David Kravish said.

Kravish actually had Colorado in his final three before ultimately choosing Cal.

"They have got a great coaching staff," Kravish said. "I really got along well with them. It just wasn't the right fit."

Four Colorado players are scoring in double-figures, a pleasant change of pace replacing Burks and his 20.5 points per game.

Guard Carlon Brown leads the way with 14.1 points per game, while sophomore forward Andre Roberson is one of only two players in the Pac-12 averaging a double-double (11.3 points, 11.7 rebounds per game).

"They are very solid," Montgomery said. "They have spread their scoring out more."

But Cal (13-4, 3-1 Pac-12) has found its footing, finally winning its first road game of the season Sunday at Oregon.

Kravish admitted the team needed the breakthrough 77-60 effort, but is more excited by the chance to add to its undefeated record at Haas Pavilion on Thursday night (8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet California).

"It's really easy to play in front of a home crowd. Once you start building momentum, the crowd starts adding its energy. It gives us even more momentum."

The availability of forward Richard Solomon should also offer a boost. After missing four games with a stress fracture in his foot, the sophomore returned over the weekend, posting five points and one rebound at Oregon State and six points and tied a season-high with 10 rebounds in 17 minutes at Oregon.

Solomon also was held out of two games while suspended for a violation of team rules, but Montgomery believes the team leader in blocks has come back better because of it.

"I think some things have happened and he realizes how much basketball means to him," Montgomery said. "It's a process of maturation."

Montgomery did not know if Solomon would see an increase in playing time against Colorado, adding it would depend on the circumstances of the game.

Junior guard Brandon Smith (concussion) did not practice Tuesday after waking up with a headache. Montgomery was hopeful Smith would do so Wednesday and play against Colorado.


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