BERKELEY -- As Cal's point guard but also the team's No. 2 scorer, Justin Cobbs says he finally is starting to find his balance.

"The coaches have given me a lot of confidence to just go out and play," Cobbs said. "I feel like a totally different player -- no stress, no thinking, just playing basketball. My whole focus is at the end of the game, hopefully we have the most points."

The Golden Bears (20-11) take on UNLV (25-9) in the NCAA tournament Thursday at HP Pavilion. It's a rematch of a Dec. 9 game in Berkeley in which the Runnin' Rebels had one more point at the end in a 76-75 victory.

Both teams are different three months later, and the difference in Cobbs is he better understands his role as combination scorer/facilitator for the Cal offense. He's put behind a difficult midseason stretch.

The strangest game was Jan. 12 at home against Washington State, when Cobbs played 40 minutes and attempted a total of two shots.

"I guess I was a little confused in that role," Cobbs said of his combo guard status. "It was just me being unselfish and wanting the other guys involved. Sometimes your team needs you to do certain things."

One of the things the Bears need from Cobbs is scoring.

"There's a lot of times we move him to the off guard because we feel like he needs to be a primary scorer," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "It's a tough spot for him a little bit. Sometimes we suffer because he can score, so we try to put him at the 2."

After averaging just 11.4 points and shooting poorly over a 12-game span in December and January, Cobbs has found his rhythm.

Over the past 13 games, he is scoring at a 17.1 clip while boosting his assists to 5.7 per game. Since a Jan. 27 game at Colorado, the Bears are 9-4 and Cobbs actually has scored one more point than teammate Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

It's not by design. Depending on the flow of the game, Cobbs said he actually prefers to pass the ball.

"I try to come out aggressive and see how it's going," he explained. "I'll focus on how Allen's playing, how our bigs are playing and if those guys are scoring, then I don't need to score."

But in the final seconds of Cal's game at Oregon on Feb. 21, it was Cobbs who asked for the ball during a timeout -- and delivered the game-winning jump shot in a 48-46 victory that kept alive what became a seven-game win streak.

Because he is just 6-foot-2, Cobbs' basketball future beyond college will require him to play the point. He said he likely will ask for an evaluation of his game from the NBA, as juniors are allowed to do, but has no idea what kind of feedback he'll get.

For now, Cobbs is concerned only with UNLV and the NCAA tournament.

"I'm working on my point guard skills," he said. "It just so happens on this team I have to score. I have no problem with that. At times before I didn't understand that."

For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.

Thursday's game

Cal (20-11) vs. UNLV (25-9) at San Jose, 4:27 p.m. truTV