The Golden Bears are 14-4 overall and have gone 5-0 in conference play. They are undefeated in 10 home games, have won eight of their past nine games overall and freshman guard Jabari Bird, who is fifth on the team in scoring with 10.1 points per game, is still working his way back after missing four games with a sprained ankle just as conference play began.
In two games since returning, Bird has averaged three points and four assists while playing just 15 minutes per game, though coach Mike Montgomery said his slow reintroduction is intentional.
“He’s kind of getting back in,” Montgomery said on a teleconference Tuesday. “We want to bring him along at a pace, because we’ve got a little bit of team chemistry right now [and] we’re doing pretty well.”
With Bird working his way back, the Bears find themselves in rare company with five players averaging double-digit points per game. Only two other teams in the six power conferences can claim that, though it’s something that required a mental shift from starting point guard Justin Cobbs, who is averaging 14.9 points per game and 6.4 assists per game.
“Originally he was trying to maybe lead the league in assists and be the best passer,” Montgomery said of the fifth-year senior from Los Angeles. “And we told him we needed him to score the ball because he’s a very good scorer so he’s kind of found a balance between the two. And he’s been very good the last few weeks.”
The Bears have begun drawing votes in both the AP and USA Today polls, though they have yet to crack the top 25.
Wins this week against USC and UCLA would do much to push them on the elite list, especially considering UCLA’s 14-4 overall record matches Cal’s.
Both teams, however, find themselves looking up at Arizona, which has yet to lose this season. The No. 1-ranked Wildcats will come to Haas Pavilion for the first matchup between the two teams Feb. 1.