LOS ANGELES -- Cal basketball coach Mike Montgomery's message to freshman Allen Crabbe: Get used to it.
Crabbe, averaging 19 points over his past five games, is beginning to draw the opponent's best defender. He faced UCLA junior Malcolm Lee in Thursday's 86-84 loss to the Bruins and figures to be chased by USC senior Marcus Simmons -- perhaps, Montgomery said, the Pac-10's best defensive player -- when the Bears (9-9, 2-4) play the Trojans (11-8, 3-3) at the Galen Center on Saturday night.
"That's what the coaches are saying, that I'm going to start seeing that kind of defense," Crabbe said. "I just have to be more aggressive, that's all."
Crabbe scored only four points in the first 36 minutes as the Bruins built a 14-point lead at Pauley Pavilion. He came alive after Lee fouled out with 3:20 left, scoring 13 points, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 10 seconds left, before the Bruins escaped on Reeves Nelson's tip-in of a Tyler Honeycutt miss with 2.2 seconds left.
Crabbe said the fault for his scoring struggles was his, that he allowed Lee's physical play to take him out of his game.
"Because I wasn't getting the same kinds of shots I was getting in earlier games, I was like, 'Man, they're shutting me down,' " he said.
Crabbe can expect a steady diet of similar attention the rest of the way.
"If you're smart," Montgomery said, "you're going to give Allen your best shot. He's proven to be pretty effective."
Simmons was credited with neutralizing Stanford's Jeremy Green on Thursday, limiting the Cardinal's top scorer to five points on 2-for-9 shooting in the Trojans' 65-42 victory.
"I hear he's a real aggressive defender," Crabbe said. "I can't be tentative against him. I have to go at him."
For several minutes, Montgomery moved Jorge Gutierrez back to point guard and shifted Harper Kamp from power forward to small forward, making room for 6-foot-9 freshman Richard Solomon up front.
"We've got lots of things we're tinkering with," Montgomery said.
Solomon scored 12 points but did not block out Nelson on the game's final play, allowing the UCLA sophomore to fly in for the game-winner.
"He went to the basket and waited for the ball to come to him, rather than go up and get it," Montgomery said of Solomon. "Richard's going to make progress. All our young guys will get better, and hopefully by leaps and bounds."
Cal (9-9, 2-4 Pac-10) at USC (11-8, 3-3), 8 p.m. CSN-Plus