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December 18, 2011

Bears likely face Gauchos without Solomon



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BERKELEY -- The California men's basketball team may have to face one of its toughest challenges of the non-conference schedule on Monday in UC Santa Barbara -- the same team that took a 47-44 lead into halftime against Washington and wound up losing by seven points in Seattle on Friday -- without big man Richard Solomon.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore had been suspended for two games by the team, and had played in two games since being reinstated, but now will likely go on the bench yet again with a stress fracture in his foot, meaning that true freshman David Kravish may have to once again step into the starting role.

UPDATE: Cal announced Monday morning that Solomon has sustained an injury to his left foot, and is expected to miss the next two games for further evaluation on what appears to be a stress fracture or stress reaction.

"Unfortunately, Richard will miss the next couple of games due to this injury," said head coach Mike Montgomery. "We hope to have him back on the court, after Christmas, in time for the start of the Pac-12 season."

If Kravish gets the nod against the Gauchos (5-3) Monday night at 7:30 at Haas Pavilion, it will be his third collegiate start, however, he has played in all 11 games, averaging 6.0 rebounds and 5.2 points per game to go along with a team-best 13 blocks. Kravish is averaging 20.9 minutes on the floor -- more than Solomon, who leads the team with 6.9 rebounds per game.

Without Solomon on the glass, rebounding will have to go through Kravish and Kamp, who average 6.0 and 5.5 boards per game.

Head coach Mike Montgomery could also elect to go with a four-guard lineup -- as he did in the Bears' first game with Solomon suspended against San Diego State -- with Justin Cobbs, Brandon Smith, Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe filling those slots along with senior power forward Harper Kamp.

The likely loss of Solomon will be a big blow for Cal (9-2), considering that he finally looked to have turned a corner in Friday's win over Weber State, scoring a season-high 11 points, pulling down seven rebounds and hammering home two dunks.

Without Solomon, 7-foot-3, 242-pound senior center Greg Somogyi will provide a big mismatch for the Bears. While both Kravish and Kamp are heady players, they have neither the height nor heft to go toe-to-toe with a player of that size. The one consolation is that the Budapest, Hungary native is not a starter. Though he played in all 32 of the Gauchos' games last season, he started just six. This season, Somogyi has played in all eight games, but started none, averaging 12.2 minutes, 3.9 boards and 2.1 blocks per contest.

"Santa Barbara's pretty good," Montgomery said after Friday's win over Weber State. "Lost to Washington by seven. Washington, they're good. They were leading at the half, so they're good. You heard it here first."

The last time Cal faced off with a player as massive as Somogyi, the Bears had the services of big-bodied Markhuri Sanders-Frison, who was able to bang around with UCLA center Joshua Smith last season in Westwood. But, the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Sanders-Frison has since graduated, and even a healthy Solomon checks in at a lean 225 pounds.

UC Santa Barbara is led by senior guard Orlando Johnson. The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder is averaging 22.3 points, 7.3 boards and 3.3 assists per game.

Like Damian Lillard on Friday, Johnson -- the nation's third leading scorer -- is likely to get the Jorge Treatment, as Gutierrez has been known for shutting down elite scoring guards.

Gutierrez -- along with being one of the Pac-12's best defenders -- is one of three Cal players to be averaging double digits in scoring. Along with Gutierrez (13.9 ppg), sophomore wing Crabbe is averaging 15.8 points per game, and redshirt sophomore Justin Cobbs is averaging 10.8.

The Gauchos' other scoring option is versatile 6-foot-7, 205-pound senior guard James Nunnaly, who averages 17 points per game to go along with 5.6 rebounds. Nunnaly has scored 20 or more points twice this season, but shot just 4-for-10 against the Huskies en route to a 10-point night -- his lowest output of the season.

Like the Bears, UC Santa Barbara lost by one point to the Aztecs in a 76-75 affair, where Johnson racked up 26 points on San Diego State on a 9-for-21 shooting night from the field and a 2-for-4 night from three-point range. Nunnaly and Johnson were the only two UC Santa Barbara players to even get into double figures, while Somogyi tallied six blocks.

Pete Newell Classic
Monday's contest has been designated as this year's Pete Newell Classic. The Classic will honor Earl Robinson -- a two-sport star (baseball and basketball) at Cal in the 1950's -- with the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award during a special halftime ceremony.

The special night honors the legacy of Cal's Hall of Fame basketball coach Pete Newell and the contributions he made to California basketball. The award is presented to a Cal men's basketball alumnus who has distinguished himself in his career accomplishments; upholding the highest ideals of Coach Newell and the University.

Notebook
The Bears can match this season's longest streak of four straight victories with a win against the Gauchos who are amidst a five-game road stretch. Cal can also break the 10-win mark before it finishes out the non-league schedule with a road game against UNLV on Dec. 23.

Cal has reeled off eight wins at Haas Pavilion this season, outscoring opponents by an average of 24.3 points in those victories, and out-rebounding the competition by 12 boards at Pete Newell Court. Under head Montgomery, the Bears are 28-3 in non-conference home games.

This will be the third of four contests this season -- including an exhibition against UC San Diego on Nov. 1 -- that will pit Cal against its sister schools from the University of California system. The Bears downed the Tritons 88-53 in the exhibition, then opened with a 77-56 win over UC Irvine. After this tilt, the Bears will face the Bruins in their second conference game on Dec. 31 at Haas Pavilion.


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