California could be getting its star player back, while Southern California should be happy just to be back on the basketball floor when the Pac-12 rivals meet Saturday in Berkeley, Calif.
Shortly after USC (11-3, 5-2 Pac-12) had its scheduled game at Stanford postponed over COVID concerns on Thursday, Cal (7-9, 2-7) battled 24th-ranked UCLA to the wire before coming up short, 61-57, in Berkeley.
The Bears had hoped Matt Bradley could face the Bruins after nearly a three-week absence due to a sprained ankle. He warmed up with his teammates before being shut down for a fifth consecutive game.
The Southern California native will try again Saturday in hopes of getting a shot at a team that he hasn't beaten in his college career, going 0-3. Bradley has scored 12, 13 and 14 points in those games.
The clubs have not met previously this season.
In Bradley's absence, Grant Anticevich led the way against UCLA with 21 points, shooting 5-for-5 on 3-pointers.
The Bears hung close by making 10 of their 22 3-point attempts.
According to Cal coach Mark Fox, the game was decided at the free-throw line, where UCLA's 9-5 advantage in points matched the difference in the game.
The Bears did not even attempt a foul shot in the second half.
"Our team needs to get to the free-throw line some," Fox understated afterward. "Especially with Matt out, we've got to get to the free-throw line to get some cheap points."
Both Cal and USC got good news Friday when the Pac-12 announced the Trojans' postponement at Stanford on Thursday had been made in error. Pregame COVID-19 testing among the Trojans initially turned up one positive, but after further review, it had been a false positive.
The conference then green-lighted Saturday's game.
USC will be seeking to get back to its winning ways after suffering a 58-56 defeat at Oregon State on Tuesday. The Trojans entered the game having won six in a row.
USC coach Andy Enfield came away from the loss concerned about his offense, which was held to 64 points or fewer for the third time in Pac-12 play.
"There's been stretches in certain games this year where we go into these droughts," he observed. "You can't pinpoint them on one person or two people. It's a team effort and we need to keep working on it."
USC is led by freshman Evan Mobley, who leads the Pac-12 in rebounding (8.6 per game) and in blocks (3.0 per game) while also averaging a team-best 15.9 points per game.
--Field Level Media