Colorado and Cal open Pac-12 play at Haas Pavilion

California has been finding itself over the last several games, and now hosts a resurgent Colorado team that's armed with a healthy Josh Scott and a bevy of three-point shooters.

California (10-3) vs. Colorado (11-2)

When: 8:00 p.m. Pacific, Sat., Jan. 1
Where: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.
TV: Pac-12 Network (Kevin Calabro, Don MacLean)
Radio: KGO 810 AM - Todd McKim, Jay John

While California fell in overtime to No. 5 Virginia on Dec. 23, letting an 11-point lead slip away, the Bears have certainly looked like they belong among the nation's elite, at least over the last two games. From giving the Cavaliers all they could handle, to a thorough win over Davidson at home, Cal looks to be finding its groove.

The Bears held Davidson to 31.3% shooting, and have held their last five opponents to 34.4% shooting from the field, and 59.0 points per game, including a hard-fought 63-59 win over Saint Mary's at home, where Cal held the Gaels to 42.4% shooting after a players-only meeting the week before. Since that meeting, the Bears are 3-1, and have shot 46.9% (105-for-224) from the field, and 41.4% (34-for-82) from three-point range. Over the last seven games coming off the bench -- dating back before the meeting, to the win over Seattle -- junior Jabari Bird has shot 47.2% from the field (25-for-53) and has hit 16-of-36 from beyond the three-point line, including a 3-for-5 outing against Davidson, where Cal as a team went 12-of-22 from beyond the arc.

Beating Davidson 86-60, the Bears shot 31-of-59 from the field (52.5%), including a staggering 58.1% for the first half. Freshman Jaylen Brown -- who had four or more fouls in five straight games Nov. 26-Dec. 9 -- was dinged for only three fouls, and went 7-of-8 shooting, hit 2-of-4 free throws, pulled down seven rebounds and added two assists and a block. Since going four games without dishing out a single assist, Brown has notched at least two assists in three of the last five games, including a career-high five against Coppin State.

Likewise, fellow freshman Ivan Rabb has gotten better and better each game since the start of the season.

Rabb is averaging 12.4 ppg and a team-high 9.0 rpg through the first 13 games, and has reached double figures 10 times with a best of 18 vs. San Diego State.

Rabb is shooting 65.6 percent from the floor, having connected on 63 of his 96 shots. No Bear player has shot more than 60 percent from the floor for a full season since Solomon Hughes in 2000-01 (62.9%), while the school freshman record is 64.0% by Tony Gonzalez in 1994-95. Rabb has been at 50% or better in all but the UC Santa Barbara game when he was 1-for-3 from the field (he did go 10-for-10 at the FT line).

As teams enter Pac-12 action, Cal leads the conference in field goal percentage defense, having allowed opponents to shoot just 37.3 percent from the floor over the course of the season. 10 of 13 opponents have been at 40 percent or less, including a season-low 24.2 percent by Coppin State and 38.9 percent by a Virginia team that entered its game with Cal shooting 51.5 percent - the Cavaliers’ lowest figure for the year at that point. In addition, the Bears are holding teams to 64.8 ppg, which is second in the conference to Arizona’s 61.8 ppg.

Cal is 7-3 in its last 10 Pac-12 openers, having won its past two games to begin conference play - 81-75 over then-No. 19 Washington last year in Berkeley and 69-62 at Stanford in 2014.

Colorado -- which was tapped to finish seventh in the Pac-12 after the 2014-15 season saw the Buffaloes finish 16-18 overall, and 7-11 in Pac-12 play. Colorado is third in the league in scoring offense (83.1 ppg), but are ninth in scoring defense (70.1 ppg), but the Buffs do the little things right. Colorado is second in the league to Utah with a 72.8% mark at the free throw line, are averaging 44.2 rebounds per game (second in the league), and allowing 32.7 rebounds per game on defense (fifth). Colorado is also fifth in blocked shots (5.5 per game), just ahead of the Bears, and average 16.5 assists per game, second in the Pac-12 to Utah.

The Buffaloes, though, as a consequence of an up-and-down transition game, tend to play fast and loose with the ball, with a -2.85 turnover margin that's dead last in the league by more than 0.1 turnover per game. But, because of Colorado's propensity to share the ball, the Buffs are third in the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio.

Thanks to big 6-foot-10 Josh Scott -- who missed eight games last year with injuries -- the Buffaloes are first in the league in defensive rebounds (31.5 drpg), and are third in defensive rebound percentage (pulling down 76.2% of rebounds on the defensive glass). Cal is right behind them, though, with a 75.1% mark. The two teams are seventh (Cal) and eighth (Colorado) in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing 35.8% and 35.7%, respectively.

Closing out on three-point shooters is going to be crucial for the Bears tonight, as Colorado leads the conference with 8.9 three-point field goals made per game. Despite seeing their three-point percentage shoot up over the last several games, Cal still hits 7.0 three balls per game -- sixth in the Pac-12. Of particular concern should be freshman Dominique Collier, who is third in the Pac-12 with a 48.7% three-point mark, and George King, who's hitting 46.0% from beyond the arc. Guard Josh Fortune is eighth in the league, shooting 42.9% from three-point land. 

Of course, the Bears have a three-point sniper of their own in Jordan Mathews, who is second in the league with 2.4 three-pointers per game made, and is hitting 41.9% from beyond the arc this season. Top Stories