Tonight: Arizona vs Cal at Haas

<p><em><small>Photo: Michael Pimentel<br>GoldenBearSports.com</em></small> <p>California hosts its first conference game of the season this Thursday, Jan 6th as they welcome the 13th ranked Arizona Wildcats to Haas Pavilion. Pac-10 coaching legend Lute Olson has the Wildcats off to their typical fast start as they cruise in on the Bay Area swing on an 8 game winning streak.</p>

Game #13: Arizona (11-2) vs. California (8-4)
Location: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley CA
Date: Jan 6th, 2005 (scheduled for 7:30 PM PST start time)

A Look at the Arizona Wildcats:

Arizona Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Lute Olson (22nd Year)
Assistants: Jim Rosborough, Josh Pastner, Rodney Tention

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):

PG – Mustafa Shakur 6’3 183 So; (9.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.0 spg, 38% 3-Ptr) – Dynamic returning PG
SG – Salim Stoudamire 6’1 179 Sr; (14.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 56% 3-Ptr’s) – Top 3-Pt shooter in Pac-10
SF – Hassan Adams 6’4 212 Jr; (11.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 spg) – Top offensive rebounder in Pac-10
PF – Ivan Radenovic 6’10 221 So; (8.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.5 apg) – 2nd year player; 3rd in rpg for Wildcats
C – Channing Frye 6’11 248 Sr; (13.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.1 apg) – Third in conference rpg and bpg

Key Returning Reserves:

PG – Chris Rodgers 6’4 210 Jr; (6.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.2 apg) – Best 6th man in the Pac-10; quality PG
PF – Isaiah Fox 6’9 263 Jr; (3.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg) – 4th year junior who redshirted in 2003-04
SG – Jawann McClellan 6’4 214 Fr; (6.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 37% 3-Ptr) – Charles H. Milby HS/Houston TX
PG – Daniel Dillon 6’3 207; (1.1 ppg, 0.6 apg) – North Laurel HS/London KY via Melbourne, Australia
SF – Jesus Verdejo 6’4 190 Fr; (3.5 ppg, 0.4 rpg) – Winchendon Prep/Winchendon MA via Puerto Rico

There’s little that anyone can write nowadays about Lute Olson that hasn’t been penned. His career coaching numbers back up one of the best resumes in all of college basketball; 722-251 lifetime record at Long Beach State, Iowa, and Arizona over 32 seasons. Olson was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on June 5, 2002 and is one of only 20 coaches in the history of college basketball to win 700 games. With 10 Pac-10 Titles, 7 Pac-10 Coach of the Year Honors, 17-straight twenty-win seasons, four Final Four appearances, and one National Championship, Lute Olson has had an incredible career. He will forever represent Arizona basketball.

The Wildcats have been a winning machine under Olson for over twenty seasons. This year is no different. Arizona already has 11 wins (1-0 in the Pac-10). With the 4th best RPI rating in the country along with playing in top rated RPI conference, Olson’s Cats are a shoe in for their 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance – the longest streak in the nation.

A program that’s faced a number of early NBA departures over the years, Arizona has some familiar names back for the 2004-05 season. The Cats lost just one player early to the NBA last year in lottery pick Andre Iguodala, who became the 28th NBA Draft selection under Olson at Arizona (47 in total). Beyond the loss of Iguodala, the Wildcats return an extremely veteran line-up that can score like few teams in the country. In fact, Olson’s past two Arizona teams have led the nation in scoring offense – a remarkable feat. A number of players return from those teams.

The floor leader for the Wildcats is sophomore point guard Mustafa Shakur. A Philly native who came to Arizona with a firm understanding that he’d be leading the best offense in all of college basketball, Shakur has yet to let anyone down. While his numbers aren’t gaudy, Mustafa’s game has been solid from his first game in Tucson. He’s athletic as any point guard in the country, can make tough shots and tough passes, and has always had the knack of controlling game tempo. While Wildcat opponents might key on some of Arizona’s other talented players, Shakur will keep them honest with a very nice jumper of his own. Shakur should be another guard in the long line of backcourt players who’ve moved from Arizona to the NBA.

Shakur’s backcourt mate is the multi-talented but complex Salim Stoudamire. The senior from Oregon brings an astounding 56% percent three-point shot to the floor – #3 in the country for any player with over 50 attempts – along with the attitude of an over-hyped prizefighter. While Salim has brought so much to the program in his ability he’s also given the Cats a number of headaches. Now in his final year, Stoudamire’s hopes are to go out big. There is no questioning the talent he has – he’s the best pure shooter in the conference. The questions about Salim surround whether he can truly lead the Wildcats to the top. It’s a role Stoudamire has struggled with ever since his second season in Tucson.

Since Shakur and Stoudamire average just under 30 minutes per game, there’s not a lot of “PT” to go around. Making the most of his opportunities, third-year back-up point guard Chris Rodgers is as top notch a guard as you’ll find on any bench in the Pac-10. His numbers per minute are excellent and though it’s getting to be an old cliché, Rodgers would start for a number of teams. Freshmen Jawann McClellan, Daniel Dillon, and Jesus Verdejo are waiting in the wings. Only McClellan has been a regular to this point (due to his outstanding scoring skills) and he’ll start at the two-guard next year. Dillon, an Aussie native, is the possible point guard of the future. Verdejo might have a tough time ever cracking the starting line-up but he’s an excellent scorer from Puerto Rico.

Out on the wing, Arizona possesses one of college basketball’s most underrated players in Hassan Adams. The junior from Los Angeles is an explosive leaper and scorer. Despite being undersized, Adams tops the Pac-10 in offensive rebounding. Hassan is perhaps the most aggressive player in the conference and its not surprising to see him leading Arizona in field goal attempts. One thing that is surprising is that Adams’ three-point game has gone completely wayward. After hitting on 38% of his 99 attempts last year, Adams has just 3 treys in 13 games in 2004-05. Opponents might start backing off Adams now that he’s not hitting – similar to what Cal’s Marquise Kately faces on a regular basis.

Playing on the wing as well is 6’10 sophomore forward Ivan Radenovic, a Belgrade native who is Arizona’s 5th scoring option. After signing in the middle of last year in what was a unique recruiting story Ivan seemed to mesh well with the Cats. He’s averaging 8 shots per game this year and has the athleticism to draw fouls and get in the lane – something a lot of 6’10 players can’t do. Offensively, the Wildcats tend to use Radenovic on the perimeter like they did with former Wildcat Ricky Anderson. That frees up the lane for Hassan Adams who is adept at working in the paint.

The frontcourt is led by All-American center candidate Channing Frye. The only former Arizona prep player who sees regular action for the Wildcats, Frye has been a rock for Lute Olson over his stellar 3 ½ year career. During his time in Tucson, the Phoenix native has averaged nearly 13 points and 8 rebounds per game, shooting over 55% from the floor and 70% from the line. He’s been a contributor ever since his first season. While he’s not as spectacular as some of the guards that have played under Olson and he’s not as big as some of his foes, Frye just gets the job done on a game by game basis.

Playing behind Frye is Isaiah Fox, the junior big man from Santa Monica CA. Fox entered the Arizona program along with Frye in 2001 but took a redshirt season last year after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Wildcats second game of the season. The big man is back and while he’s not much of a threat offensively, Fox has the ability to score while also taking up a lot of space inside.

The Wildcats can certainly move the ball and score as well as any team that Cal will face this season. They can score down low or kick it out and hit the three. They have athletes who possess confidence to score. More importantly, the Wildcats have recommitted themselves to playing defense. They got away from that last year and ended up allowing over 78 points per game on average – including an 87 point defensive collapse to Cal last year as the Wildcats suffered their first ever loss in Haas Pavilion. This year, Olson has tightened the screws on defense. Arizona is giving up just 65 points per game and thieving a Pac-10 high 9.5 steals per game. They have five players averaging over a steal per game this season. After a 97-79 win over rival Arizona State this past weekend, Lute Olson talked about what is working for the Wildcats.

“I thought that as a team, we did a good job of taking care of the basketball,” said Olson. “We forced 19 turnovers, so we had extra possessions as a result. The turnovers are a key stat.”

Due to their athleticism, forcing that many turnovers will usually allow Arizona to win with ease. Look for Arizona to try and force Cal into mistakes by pressing, zoning, and trapping. Last year at Haas Pavilion, Cal only turned the ball over 7 times – the number one reason Cal won. Earlier in the season, Arizona forced the Bears into 22 turnovers at the McKale Center in a blowout win by the Cats.

The Wildcats are the best free throw shooting team (76%), the number two three point shooting team (40%), and the number two rebounding team in the Pac-10. They possess a number of scoring options and they are simply tough to beat.

A look at the California Golden Bears:

Cal Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Ben Braun (9th Year)
Assistants: Louis Reynaud, Joe Pasternack, George Nessman

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):

PG – Martin Smith 5’11 170 Jr; (4.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 4.0 apg) – Valuable walk-on averaging over 20 mpg
SG – Richard Midgley 6'2 210 Jr; (16.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 42% 3-Ptr) – 2-year starter; Top 3-point shooter
SF – Marquise Kately 6’5 220 So; (11.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 45% FG, 40% 3-Ptr) – 3rd in scoring & rebounding
PF – Rod Benson 6’10 215 Jr; (12.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58% FG) – Shooting 58% as a 1st year starter; 2nd in scoring
C – DeVon Hardin 6’10 245 Fr; (5.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) – Newark HS, Newark CA – Bears leading rebounder

Key Reserves:

SF – Dominic McGuire 6’9 215 So; (6.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.8 apg) – 3rd in rebounding and 4th in scoring
PF – David Paris 6’9 245 Jr; (5.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 46% FG, 75% FT) – Top reserve low post player
SF – Eric Vierneisel 6’7 200 Fr; (3.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 36% 3-Ptr) – Jacobs HS, Algonquin IL
PF – Kevin Langford 6’9 215 Fr; (1.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.6 apg) – North Crowley HS, Fort Worth TX

Cal returns to Haas Pavilion after opening the 2005 Pac-10 season in Washington. They split the 2-game, 3-day road trek by dropping a hard fought 81-67 loss to the Huskies on opening night and then bouncing back with a 59-47 victory of the Cougars. It was a successful road trip as Cal handled the first two tests quite well, keeping their composure and fighting back against UW and out-defending a quality defensive team in the Cougars.

Whenever a team suffers considerable injuries like Cal has other players on the team have to step up. Junior guards Richard Midgley and Martin Smith have definitely provided a lift to a team extremely short on ball-handlers. Smith is currently tops in the Pac-10 with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.82. He’s quickly pushed himself into the starting line-up and while his shot is inconsistent, Martin has provided Cal with a speedy option that makes good decisions with the ball. Midgley has picked up the scoring slack for the Bears, drilling thirty three’s and averaging 16.7 points per game – 5th best in the conference. The English-born Midgley is unquestionably the team leader and has proven to be one of the tougher players in the Pac-10.

“We try to give him a soft day,” said Coach Braun about Midgley. “But there’s nothing soft about Richard. He doesn’t like it. We try to do more of a walk-through in between games but he’s still out there. And when he’s not out there, we lose a lot. He’s really a big part of what we do. As I said the other day, he doesn’t really get the attention he deserves defensively. He’s a pretty solid defender and he’s shut down some pretty good players this year; shut out some pretty good players last year. He just has a a lot of pride in what he does. He challenges other players to take it to him. He’s just a tough kid. And it really rubs off. I think our team follows his lead.”

Midgley and Smith will match-up with Stoudamire and Shakur on Thursday night.

Another player that has dramatically improved for Cal is junior forward Rod Benson. The San Diego native is currently the Bears #2 scoring option and his average of 12 points per game falls in the top 20 of the Pac-10. Benson scored just 68 points over his first two seasons in Berkeley but has already pumped in 144 points to begin his junior campaign. With a developing soft touch around the rim and the ability to beat other post men down the court, Benson has averaged double digits point totals in all but two of the Bears past nine games. As a match-up with Radenovic or Frye looms, Benson will need to provide the Bears with a rebounding presence. He’s grabbed 18 boards the past three games.

The Bears are already playing without sophomore’s Ayinde Ubaka and Leon Powe. Sophomore transfer Omar Wilkes is out during his transfer year. While Ubaka is working his way back, fellow sophomore Marquise Kately will have to play with a bandaged left hand as he injured himself in a freak frozen food accident after returning home from the Washington trip. It’s his non-shooting hand so Kately should have little-to-no problems. Dominic McGuire and Kately will likely square off with Radenovic and Adams on both ends. Expect the wings on both teams to guard against penetration. Radenovic and Adams have hit just 11 three’s combined in 13 games. For Cal, Kately and McGuire have hit just four – all by Kately.

Freshman DeVon Hardin will have his hands full guarding Channing Frye, a post man who possesses one of the better jump hooks in the Pac-10. Hardin has been a delight for Cal fans with his passionate play and excellent defensive skills. Despite garnering 17.5 minutes per game, Hardin leads Cal in rebounding at 5.5 rpg. DeVon is still very raw offensively but he knows when to throw it down. Foul trouble and going for the big block can get Hardin off his game so it’ll be important for Cal’s starting freshman center to keep his composure while keeping himself on the court. He has the ability to give Frye a lot of trouble but he could also vanish quickly against one of the few experienced post players in the conference.

For Cal to win, they’ll have to bring their “A” game against ‘Zona. That means making this game very defensive – even downright ugly. Arizona will try to force the tempo and since they are a much deeper team, they could run Cal off the court over 40 minutes. The key for Cal is to be opportunistic and try to get easy baskets while also keeping the game flow slow.

If the score stays in the 60’s to 70’s, Cal has the offensive ability to win the game. But if it gets to 70 points or higher, Arizona will avenge their defeat in Berkeley a year ago.


©Copyright 2005, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

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Game #13: Arizona (11-2) vs. California (8-4)
Location: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley CA
Date: Jan 6th, 2005 (scheduled for 7:30 PM PST start time)

A Look at the Arizona Wildcats:

Arizona Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Lute Olson (22nd Year)
Assistants: Jim Rosborough, Josh Pastner, Rodney Tention

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):

PG – Mustafa Shakur 6’3 183 So; (9.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.0 spg, 38% 3-Ptr) – Dynamic returning PG
SG – Salim Stoudamire 6’1 179 Sr; (14.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 56% 3-Ptr’s) – Top 3-Pt shooter in Pac-10
SF – Hassan Adams 6’4 212 Jr; (11.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 spg) – Top offensive rebounder in Pac-10
PF – Ivan Radenovic 6’10 221 So; (8.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.5 apg) – 2nd year player; 3rd in rpg for Wildcats
C – Channing Frye 6’11 248 Sr; (13.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.1 apg) – Third in conference rpg and bpg

Key Returning Reserves:

PG – Chris Rodgers 6’4 210 Jr; (6.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.2 apg) – Best 6th man in the Pac-10; quality PG
PF – Isaiah Fox 6’9 263 Jr; (3.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg) – 4th year junior who redshirted in 2003-04
SG – Jawann McClellan 6’4 214 Fr; (6.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 37% 3-Ptr) – Charles H. Milby HS/Houston TX
PG – Daniel Dillon 6’3 207; (1.1 ppg, 0.6 apg) – North Laurel HS/London KY via Melbourne, Australia
SF – Jesus Verdejo 6’4 190 Fr; (3.5 ppg, 0.4 rpg) – Winchendon Prep/Winchendon MA via Puerto Rico

There’s little that anyone can write nowadays about Lute Olson that hasn’t been penned. His career coaching numbers back up one of the best resumes in all of college basketball; 722-251 lifetime record at Long Beach State, Iowa, and Arizona over 32 seasons. Olson was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on June 5, 2002 and is one of only 20 coaches in the history of college basketball to win 700 games. With 10 Pac-10 Titles, 7 Pac-10 Coach of the Year Honors, 17-straight twenty-win seasons, four Final Four appearances, and one National Championship, Lute Olson has had an incredible career. He will forever represent Arizona basketball.

The Wildcats have been a winning machine under Olson for over twenty seasons. This year is no different. Arizona already has 11 wins (1-0 in the Pac-10). With the 4th best RPI rating in the country along with playing in top rated RPI conference, Olson’s Cats are a shoe in for their 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance – the longest streak in the nation.

A program that’s faced a number of early NBA departures over the years, Arizona has some familiar names back for the 2004-05 season. The Cats lost just one player early to the NBA last year in lottery pick Andre Iguodala, who became the 28th NBA Draft selection under Olson at Arizona (47 in total). Beyond the loss of Iguodala, the Wildcats return an extremely veteran line-up that can score like few teams in the country. In fact, Olson’s past two Arizona teams have led the nation in scoring offense – a remarkable feat. A number of players return from those teams.

The floor leader for the Wildcats is sophomore point guard Mustafa Shakur. A Philly native who came to Arizona with a firm understanding that he’d be leading the best offense in all of college basketball, Shakur has yet to let anyone down. While his numbers aren’t gaudy, Mustafa’s game has been solid from his first game in Tucson. He’s athletic as any point guard in the country, can make tough shots and tough passes, and has always had the knack of controlling game tempo. While Wildcat opponents might key on some of Arizona’s other talented players, Shakur will keep them honest with a very nice jumper of his own. Shakur should be another guard in the long line of backcourt players who’ve moved from Arizona to the NBA.

Shakur’s backcourt mate is the multi-talented but complex Salim Stoudamire. The senior from Oregon brings an astounding 56% percent three-point shot to the floor – #3 in the country for any player with over 50 attempts – along with the attitude of an over-hyped prizefighter. While Salim has brought so much to the program in his ability he’s also given the Cats a number of headaches. Now in his final year, Stoudamire’s hopes are to go out big. There is no questioning the talent he has – he’s the best pure shooter in the conference. The questions about Salim surround whether he can truly lead the Wildcats to the top. It’s a role Stoudamire has struggled with ever since his second season in Tucson.

Since Shakur and Stoudamire average just under 30 minutes per game, there’s not a lot of “PT” to go around. Making the most of his opportunities, third-year back-up point guard Chris Rodgers is as top notch a guard as you’ll find on any bench in the Pac-10. His numbers per minute are excellent and though it’s getting to be an old cliché, Rodgers would start for a number of teams. Freshmen Jawann McClellan, Daniel Dillon, and Jesus Verdejo are waiting in the wings. Only McClellan has been a regular to this point (due to his outstanding scoring skills) and he’ll start at the two-guard next year. Dillon, an Aussie native, is the possible point guard of the future. Verdejo might have a tough time ever cracking the starting line-up but he’s an excellent scorer from Puerto Rico.

Out on the wing, Arizona possesses one of college basketball’s most underrated players in Hassan Adams. The junior from Los Angeles is an explosive leaper and scorer. Despite being undersized, Adams tops the Pac-10 in offensive rebounding. Hassan is perhaps the most aggressive player in the conference and its not surprising to see him leading Arizona in field goal attempts. One thing that is surprising is that Adams’ three-point game has gone completely wayward. After hitting on 38% of his 99 attempts last year, Adams has just 3 treys in 13 games in 2004-05. Opponents might start backing off Adams now that he’s not hitting – similar to what Cal’s Marquise Kately faces on a regular basis.

Playing on the wing as well is 6’10 sophomore forward Ivan Radenovic, a Belgrade native who is Arizona’s 5th scoring option. After signing in the middle of last year in what was a unique recruiting story Ivan seemed to mesh well with the Cats. He’s averaging 8 shots per game this year and has the athleticism to draw fouls and get in the lane – something a lot of 6’10 players can’t do. Offensively, the Wildcats tend to use Radenovic on the perimeter like they did with former Wildcat Ricky Anderson. That frees up the lane for Hassan Adams who is adept at working in the paint.

The frontcourt is led by All-American center candidate Channing Frye. The only former Arizona prep player who sees regular action for the Wildcats, Frye has been a rock for Lute Olson over his stellar 3 ½ year career. During his time in Tucson, the Phoenix native has averaged nearly 13 points and 8 rebounds per game, shooting over 55% from the floor and 70% from the line. He’s been a contributor ever since his first season. While he’s not as spectacular as some of the guards that have played under Olson and he’s not as big as some of his foes, Frye just gets the job done on a game by game basis.

Playing behind Frye is Isaiah Fox, the junior big man from Santa Monica CA. Fox entered the Arizona program along with Frye in 2001 but took a redshirt season last year after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Wildcats second game of the season. The big man is back and while he’s not much of a threat offensively, Fox has the ability to score while also taking up a lot of space inside.

The Wildcats can certainly move the ball and score as well as any team that Cal will face this season. They can score down low or kick it out and hit the three. They have athletes who possess confidence to score. More importantly, the Wildcats have recommitted themselves to playing defense. They got away from that last year and ended up allowing over 78 points per game on average – including an 87 point defensive collapse to Cal last year as the Wildcats suffered their first ever loss in Haas Pavilion. This year, Olson has tightened the screws on defense. Arizona is giving up just 65 points per game and thieving a Pac-10 high 9.5 steals per game. They have five players averaging over a steal per game this season. After a 97-79 win over rival Arizona State this past weekend, Lute Olson talked about what is working for the Wildcats.

“I thought that as a team, we did a good job of taking care of the basketball,” said Olson. “We forced 19 turnovers, so we had extra possessions as a result. The turnovers are a key stat.”

Due to their athleticism, forcing that many turnovers will usually allow Arizona to win with ease. Look for Arizona to try and force Cal into mistakes by pressing, zoning, and trapping. Last year at Haas Pavilion, Cal only turned the ball over 7 times – the number one reason Cal won. Earlier in the season, Arizona forced the Bears into 22 turnovers at the McKale Center in a blowout win by the Cats.

The Wildcats are the best free throw shooting team (76%), the number two three point shooting team (40%), and the number two rebounding team in the Pac-10. They possess a number of scoring options and they are simply tough to beat.

A look at the California Golden Bears:

Cal Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Ben Braun (9th Year)
Assistants: Louis Reynaud, Joe Pasternack, George Nessman

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):

PG – Martin Smith 5’11 170 Jr; (4.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 4.0 apg) – Valuable walk-on averaging over 20 mpg
SG – Richard Midgley 6'2 210 Jr; (16.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 42% 3-Ptr) – 2-year starter; Top 3-point shooter
SF – Marquise Kately 6’5 220 So; (11.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 45% FG, 40% 3-Ptr) – 3rd in scoring & rebounding
PF – Rod Benson 6’10 215 Jr; (12.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58% FG) – Shooting 58% as a 1st year starter; 2nd in scoring
C – DeVon Hardin 6’10 245 Fr; (5.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) – Newark HS, Newark CA – Bears leading rebounder

Key Reserves:

SF – Dominic McGuire 6’9 215 So; (6.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.8 apg) – 3rd in rebounding and 4th in scoring
PF – David Paris 6’9 245 Jr; (5.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 46% FG, 75% FT) – Top reserve low post player
SF – Eric Vierneisel 6’7 200 Fr; (3.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 36% 3-Ptr) – Jacobs HS, Algonquin IL
PF – Kevin Langford 6’9 215 Fr; (1.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.6 apg) – North Crowley HS, Fort Worth TX

Cal returns to Haas Pavilion after opening the 2005 Pac-10 season in Washington. They split the 2-game, 3-day road trek by dropping a hard fought 81-67 loss to the Huskies on opening night and then bouncing back with a 59-47 victory of the Cougars. It was a successful road trip as Cal handled the first two tests quite well, keeping their composure and fighting back against UW and out-defending a quality defensive team in the Cougars.

Whenever a team suffers considerable injuries like Cal has other players on the team have to step up. Junior guards Richard Midgley and Martin Smith have definitely provided a lift to a team extremely short on ball-handlers. Smith is currently tops in the Pac-10 with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.82. He’s quickly pushed himself into the starting line-up and while his shot is inconsistent, Martin has provided Cal with a speedy option that makes good decisions with the ball. Midgley has picked up the scoring slack for the Bears, drilling thirty three’s and averaging 16.7 points per game – 5th best in the conference. The English-born Midgley is unquestionably the team leader and has proven to be one of the tougher players in the Pac-10.

“We try to give him a soft day,” said Coach Braun about Midgley. “But there’s nothing soft about Richard. He doesn’t like it. We try to do more of a walk-through in between games but he’s still out there. And when he’s not out there, we lose a lot. He’s really a big part of what we do. As I said the other day, he doesn’t really get the attention he deserves defensively. He’s a pretty solid defender and he’s shut down some pretty good players this year; shut out some pretty good players last year. He just has a a lot of pride in what he does. He challenges other players to take it to him. He’s just a tough kid. And it really rubs off. I think our team follows his lead.”

Midgley and Smith will match-up with Stoudamire and Shakur on Thursday night.

Another player that has dramatically improved for Cal is junior forward Rod Benson. The San Diego native is currently the Bears #2 scoring option and his average of 12 points per game falls in the top 20 of the Pac-10. Benson scored just 68 points over his first two seasons in Berkeley but has already pumped in 144 points to begin his junior campaign. With a developing soft touch around the rim and the ability to beat other post men down the court, Benson has averaged double digits point totals in all but two of the Bears past nine games. As a match-up with Radenovic or Frye looms, Benson will need to provide the Bears with a rebounding presence. He’s grabbed 18 boards the past three games.

The Bears are already playing without sophomore’s Ayinde Ubaka and Leon Powe. Sophomore transfer Omar Wilkes is out during his transfer year. While Ubaka is working his way back, fellow sophomore Marquise Kately will have to play with a bandaged left hand as he injured himself in a freak frozen food accident after returning home from the Washington trip. It’s his non-shooting hand so Kately should have little-to-no problems. Dominic McGuire and Kately will likely square off with Radenovic and Adams on both ends. Expect the wings on both teams to guard against penetration. Radenovic and Adams have hit just 11 three’s combined in 13 games. For Cal, Kately and McGuire have hit just four – all by Kately.

Freshman DeVon Hardin will have his hands full guarding Channing Frye, a post man who possesses one of the better jump hooks in the Pac-10. Hardin has been a delight for Cal fans with his passionate play and excellent defensive skills. Despite garnering 17.5 minutes per game, Hardin leads Cal in rebounding at 5.5 rpg. DeVon is still very raw offensively but he knows when to throw it down. Foul trouble and going for the big block can get Hardin off his game so it’ll be important for Cal’s starting freshman center to keep his composure while keeping himself on the court. He has the ability to give Frye a lot of trouble but he could also vanish quickly against one of the few experienced post players in the conference.

For Cal to win, they’ll have to bring their “A” game against ‘Zona. That means making this game very defensive – even downright ugly. Arizona will try to force the tempo and since they are a much deeper team, they could run Cal off the court over 40 minutes. The key for Cal is to be opportunistic and try to get easy baskets while also keeping the game flow slow.

If the score stays in the 60’s to 70’s, Cal has the offensive ability to win the game. But if it gets to 70 points or higher, Arizona will avenge their defeat in Berkeley a year ago.


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