Cal men’s basketball fans will get a chance to watch two of the nation’s most prolific scorers go head-to-head when No. 16 Creighton (9-1) rolls into Haas Pavilion on Saturday.
Creighton’s Doug McDermott is the NCAA’s fifth-leading scorer, averaging 22.7 points per game and Cal’s Allen Crabbe is sixth, dropping 21.9 points per outing.
“You always want to play the best, you just want to beat the best,” Crabbe said.
McDermott, the son of Bluejays coach Greg McDermott, is college basketball’s only returning first-team All-American. Last year, he was the nation’s third-leading scorer (23.2 points per game) as a sophomore.
Crabbe said McDermott caught his eye when they crossed paths at the 2011 U-19 USA Basketball camp in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I just didn’t know who he was and I saw him go out there and perform and he did pretty well,” he said. “I was just shocked.”
Like Crabbe, McDermott is a pure shooter who can hit from almost anywhere on the floor. He scores in the post, his mid-range game is lethal and he is 17-for-24 from 3-point range this season.
But coach Mike Montgomery said he’s more than just a great scorer.
“He’s just a tough, hard-nosed guy,” he said. “Not a prima donna, he’ll go do the work. He’ll go get the ball off the floor, he’ll get on the floor after a loose ball.”
Cleaning the glass: The strongest indicator of a Bears win this season is how the team performs on the boards. Cal is 6-0 when they out-rebound opponents, 0-2 when they lose the battle on the glass.
The team grabbed 40 or more boards in four straight games for the first time since the 1997-98 season earlier this year. But it gave up 14 offensive rebounds in a loss against Wisconsin on Dec. 2 and 13 more in a defeat to No. 17 UNLV on Sunday.
The Bears are tall in the paint with Richard Solomon (6-foot-10), David Kravish (6-9) and Robert Thurman (6-10). But Montgomery said the art of rebounding is more about instincts than height.
“Being 6-10 doesn’t mean that you go react to the ball, doesn’t mean you’re quick off your feet, doesn’t mean that you locate the ball and go get it naturally,” he said.
The Bears are 80th in the nation in rebounding, averaging 38.3 boards per game. The Bluejays are 146th, pulling down 36 rebounds per contest.
Building a résumé: The NCAA Tournament selection committee has punished the Bears and the Pac-12 Conference in recent years for not beating ranked teams during the nonconference schedule.
Despite a 13-5 Pac-12 record last year, the Bears were relegated to the tournament’s play-in game because they didn’t have single win against a ranked opponent on their resume.
A win over the 16th-ranked Jayhawks could be crucial come March since the Bears have only one other game against a ranked team (No. 8 Arizona) ahead on the schedule.