With a sore right knee keeping Jorge Gutierrez sidelined for tonight's game against UCLA and Saturday's matchup with USC, Cal coach Mike Montgomery said it's up to others to provide the "energy rush" off the bench the Bears typically get from their sophomore sixth man.
Gutierrez had his second MRI in two weeks Monday, and it showed no damage beyond the problems he continues to have after surgery last spring to have some meniscus cartilage tissue removed from his knee.
"He's got some issues in there with not enough cushioning," Montgomery said. "He just came down wrong and traumatized the knee, so it's barking back at him."
Barring a "miraculous recovery," Gutierrez won't be available for USC, either, but he will not require surgery. Montgomery said he's hoping the 6-foot-3 guard can play next week when the Bears visit Washington State and Washington.
The Golden Bears (9-4, 1-0 in Pac-10) will try to snap a five-game losing streak to UCLA (6-8, 1-1), which arrives in the Bay Area with a losing record for the first time since the 2002-03 season, the year before Ben Howland became the Bruins coach.
"They're a young team," Cal senior Theo Robertson said, "but they're still UCLA."
Montgomery hopes his bench delivers in the same fashion it did Saturday, when reserve players contributed 40 points to a 92-66 rout of Stanford, but conceded, "It's easier to play from a lead."
Still, someone needs to fill the void left by Gutierrez, whose defensive intensity has game-changing capacity. Montgomery said he talked with subs Omondi Amoke, Nikola Knezevic, Brandon Smith and D.J. Seeley about providing the hustle and energy Gutierrez displays.
"It's hard to replace a guy like Jorge, just because of the intangibles he brings," Montgomery said.
Robertson, a senior forward from De La Salle High, said he didn't even know he was approaching the milestone until someone told him this week. But it's a tribute to Robertson's perseverance through two hip surgeries and a foot injury that cost him six games this season that he will become the Bears' 39th player to reach 1,000 points.
"It's something I'm proud of ... but to be honest, all that doesn't mean a lot to me," he said. "In my eyes, it would mean more to my legacy, if you will, to go out as a senior (as) a Pac-10 champion."
Montgomery said he knew very little about Robertson before taking over as Cal's coach last season.
"He kind of surprised me," said Montgomery, who discovered a complete player who understands the game and is able to play two or three positions.
"That's why it hurt us so much when he went out," Montgomery said of Robertson's six-game absence this season. "In a lot of ways, Theo is as valuable as anybody we have because of his ability to do so many things for us."