Back at .500 for the first time since Nov. 16, California looks to extend its winning streak to four games Thursday against visiting Portland State. Following a rough stretch that included ugly losses to Central Arkansas and Division II Chaminade, the Bears have regained some much-needed momentum ahead of their Pac-12 opener at Stanford on Dec. 30.
Freshmen Darius McNeill and Justice Sueing combined for 37 points on 16-of-28 shooting in Tuesday’s 81-59 victory over Seattle as the Bears switched up their defense throughout the contest and held the Redhawks to 33 percent shooting. The game marked another encouraging outing for Cal following narrow wins over San Diego State and Cal State Fullerton. “We’re young, but the guys are picking up what we’re telling them to do,” coach Wyking Jones told reporters. “They’re giving us great effort. It’s just a learning process for these young guys. But they’re maturing at a fast rate right now. I’m very happy for our team.” McNeill is averaging 25.0 points in the last two games for the Bears, who need to be careful not to overlook a Portland State team that defeated Stanford 87-78 last month
TV: 11 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT PORTLAND STATE (9-3): After shooting 37.8 percent in a 95-84 loss at Oregon, the Vikings bounced back by shooting 51.3 percent in Saturday’s 116-71 win over Division III Linfield College. Senior guard Deontae North, who registered 27 points and five steals against Linfield, has averaged 26.7 points in his last three games and ranks second in the conference in scoring (20.3). The Vikings lead the Big Sky in scoring at 92.6 points per game but have been outrebounded in seven of their last nine contests.
ABOUT CAL (6-6): Junior guard Don Coleman, who averages a team-high 36.3 minutes per game, leads the Bears in scoring at 20.7 points per contest and had 16 in the win over Seattle along with a career-high six assists. The Bears are young in the backcourt but have plenty of experience near the basket, where seniors Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh have combined for 59 blocks. Jones continues to be pleased by the development of Sueing, who averages 11.8 points and 5.0 rebounds and has scored in double figures seven times.
1. Cal and Portland State share one common opponent this season in UC Riverside. The Bears lost 74-66 to the Highlanders while the Vikings rolled to a 94-82 victory.
2. Portland State is 6-52 all-time against current members of the Pac-12 Conference, including 1-1 this season.
3. Cal is averaging 10.0 steals in the last three games.
PREDICTION: Cal 78, Portland State 72