Confident Cal seeking complete game

Bolstered by upsets of top-10 teams Oregon and Arizona, California seeks another marquee win Thursday against UCLA.

BERKELEY, Calif. – California has come by its two signature wins in wildly different ways.

The Golden Bears' victory over then-No. 10 Oregon at Haas Pavilion was a defensive clinic, forcing 22 turnovers – most by an opponent this season – and turning them into 25 points. The Ducks fared no better scoring in transition or from the three-point line, good enough to overcome a decidedly mediocre offensive performance.

Compare that to the upset at then-No. 7 Arizona last Sunday, where Cal made a season-high 58 percent of its shots from the field. Allen Crabbe seemingly could not miss, offsetting just nine Wildcat turnovers and 9-of-18 shooting from long range.

To complete its trilogy of wins over the current Pac-12 leaders by downing UCLA on Thursday at Haas Pavilion (6 p.m., ESPN2), head coach Mike Montgomery knows that Cal will need balance from both its offense and defense.

"When we focus and don't make a lot of mental mistakes and if we shoot the ball, that combination of things, I think we can be a pretty good team," Montgomery said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "Obviously if we don't shoot the ball, that puts a real premium on defending and all the little things. If we don't do that, we're not in great shape."

Cal (14-9, 6-5 Pac-12) did little right in its previous meeting with the Bruins (18-6, 8-3 Pac-12), falling 79-65 in Los Angeles on Jan. 3 to open conference play. Freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad scored 16 points for UCLA, while point guard Larry Drew had nine assists without a turnover as he was able to get out and attack on the fast break.

"Their talent level is really, really good. We know that," Montgomery said.

It didn't help matters that Cal was 0-of-13 from behind the arc and couldn't get scoring production to supplement Crabbe's game-high 21 points.

But now with the blueprint of recent success, and the added energy that comes from inching back into consideration for the NCAA tournament, players expressed confidence they can turn the tables this time around.

"We just got to keep being consistent," Crabbe said. "Our attention to detail on the offensive and defensive end was really good, and I just feel like if we can just play with that same intensity throughout the whole season we can get as many wins as we want."

One thing unlikely to carry over from its Arizona triumph is the zone defense Montgomery turned to after Crabbe picked up his second foul late in the first half. The 1-2-2 alignment represented a dramatic departure from Montgomery's dependence on man-to-man, though Cal has practiced it this season.

It thoroughly frustrated Arizona, but the presence of freshman guard Kyle Anderson for UCLA would neutralize any further use of that defense because of his instincts as a passer, Montgomery said.

Anderson, whose 3.7 assists per game rank second on the team, can get into the middle of a zone and attack by finding the open man.

"He's a little bit like [Nikola] Vucevic was at [USC]," Montgomery said. "You get him in that high post area, he's 6-foot-9 and it is hard to keep him from getting the ball."

That puts Cal in the position of simply having to be fundamentally sound at both ends of the court, a goal that seems viable after the Oregon and Arizona results.

"It showed us what we were capable of," guard Justin Cobbs said. "It has given us a lot of confidence we can play with anybody in the country if we set our mind to it."

Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


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