With back-to-back wins over Utah Valley and Arkansas to open National Invitation Tournament play in Haas Pavilion, California now takes to the road, visiting SMU Wednesday for a 6 p.m. PT tip that will send the winner to the NIT semifinals in New York next week. The Golden Bears and Mustangs will be meeting for the first time since the 1979-80 season.
In its history, Cal has advanced to the NIT quarterfinals three previous times - 1987, 1999 and 2000. The 1999 squad went on to capture the title with a 61-60 victory over Clemson.
Wednesday’s game will be televised on ESPN2 and air on the Cal/IMG radio network (locally on KGO AM 810).
Golden Bear Notes
• With 130 victories, Cal is enjoying its winningest six-year stretch in school history since head coach Mike Montgomery arrived in Berkeley for the start of the 2008-09 campaign.
• This is Cal’s 26th postseason tournament appearance in school history and eighth in the NIT. The Bears, who last appeared in the NIT during the 2011 season, captured the 1999 tournament title and also reached the quarterfinals in 1987 and 2000.
• Cal has advanced to the postseason in each of Mike Montgomery’s six years as head coach - four NCAA Tournament and two NIT appearances. This is Montgomery’s 31st winning season in 32 years as a collegiate coach. Montgomery is the conference’s third-winningest coach with 282 league wins in his 24th season in the conference. Montgomery is also the ninth-winningest active Division I men’s basketball coach with 677 career wins. He ranks 26th on the NCAA’s all-time list.
• Four Golden Bears earned All-Pac-12 honors, with senior point guard Justin Cobbs leading the way with a first team selection. Cobbs, who ranks second in the conference in assists (5.8 apg) and ninth in scoring (15.5 ppg), was a second-team pick last year and honorable mention in 2012. Senior forward Richard Solomon, the Pac-12’s rebounding king and one of only three players in the six power conferences to average a double-double (11.0 ppg and 10.2 rpg), was an honorable mention selection. Junior forward David Kravish garnered Pac-12 All-Defensive Team honorable mention while guard Jordan Mathews was named All-Freshman Team honorable mention.
• A finalist for the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award, Cobbs is the Pac-12’s active career assist leader with 524 in his third season at Cal. He recently passed Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson and is tied for second in school history in career assists.
A Look at SMU
SMU, out of the American Athletic Conference, enters Wednesday’s NIT quarterfinal game with a 25-9 overall record. The Mustangs defeated UC Irvine, 68-54, in the opening round and then knocked off LSU, 80-67, Monday to advance. Five players scored in double figures aginst the Tigers, led by Nic Moore and Nick Russell with 16 points apiece.
Cal and SMU have met only twice previously. At the All Sports Classic in Dallas in December 1967, the Bears prevailed, 88-84. While on Dec. 22, 1979, SMU won, 97-88, at the Kentucky Invitational in Lexington, Ky.
Overall, the Mustangs are paced by Moore’s 13.6 ppg and Marcus Kennedy’s 12.0 ppg. SMU finished 12-6 in the AAC and is 17-1 at home this year. While Cal is 2-0 vs. Arkansas this season, the Mustangs lost at Arkansas, 89-78, on Nov. 18.
Head Coach Larry Brown is in his second season at SMU.
Last Time Out: Cal 75, Arkansas 64
California limited Arkansas to single digits through the first 15 minutes of their NIT second-round contest Monday at Haas Pavilion, building a 31-8 advantage on its way to a 75-64 victory.
Cal played its second straight game without Richard Solomon, who was out with a concussion. Going with a smaller lineup that included Bird, the Bears led 9-6 early before going on a 16-0 run to move ahead 25-6. The lead reached 31-8 before Arkansas got going offensively, trimming its deficit to 13 points before Cal went into the break with a 38-23 advantage. The Bears shot 62.5 percent from the floor in the opening period and held the Razorbacks to just 25.0% (10-40).
Arkansas made a couple of runs at Cal in the second half and was within 8 points at 63-55 with 4:01 left. However, the Bears maintained a double-digit advantage most of the rest of the way and sealed the contest by going 6-for-6 from the line in the final minute. Senior guard Justin Cobbs, in his final Haas Pavilion performance, finished with 9 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds.
For the game, Cal shot 55.3 percent from the floor with Arkansas held to 32.1 percent.