California is showing some encouraging signs following a disappointing trip to Hawaii that ended with a stunning loss to Division II Chaminade. The rebuilding Golden Bears look to take another step forward Wednesday against visiting Central Arkansas, which opened its two-game West Coast road trip with a 78-76 loss to San Francisco.
Senior forward Marcus Lee, a Kentucky transfer who has started all eight games, offered a reminder of his potential with a career-high 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting in Saturday’s 74-63 loss to Saint Mary’s. Senior walk-on Nick Hamilton added 16 points for the Golden Bears, who neutralized Gaels leading scorer Jock Landale but never led in the contest. “We looked young out there,” first-year coach Wyking Jones told reporters. “Our guys are going to have to figure it out. Hopefully, they get accustomed to it as we play games like this.” Jones had three freshmen in the starting lineup against Saint Mary’s - including guard Darius McNeill, who struggled against the Gaels but has scored in double figures in five of his last six games.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT CENTRAL ARKANSAS (4-5): Picked to finish 11th in the Southland Conference preseason poll, the Bears are led by senior point guard Jordan Howard, an NBA prospect averaging 23.6 points on 46.4 percent shooting - including 41.8 percent from 3-point range. The team’s veteran backcourt includes senior Mathieu Kamba, who averages 11.3 points and recorded 16 on 6-of-8 shooting in the loss to San Francisco. Junior guard Thatch Unruh averages 9.1 points for the Bears, who are facing their second Pac-12 opponent of the season following a 106-101 overtime loss to UCLA on Nov. 15.
ABOUT CALIFORNIA (3-5): McNeill is averaging 11.8 points on 47.9 percent shooting but missed six of his seven attempts against Saint Mary’s and finished with a season-low three points. Jones also is hoping for a bounce-back effort from junior guard Don Coleman, who entered the Saint Mary’s game averaging 22.7 points but was held to eight on 3-of-16 shooting. Forward Justice Sueing has been a bright spot at 12.8 points per game while fellow freshman Juhwan Harris-Dyson has started the last two games as Jones experiments with his rotation.
1. Cal is tied for last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense at 78.6 points per game.
2. Central Arkansas ranks fourth in the Southland Conference in scoring with an average of 81.8 points.
3. Cal plays its first true road game of the season on Saturday against San Diego State.
PREDICTION: Cal 68, Central Arkansas 63