Bears Face New Mexico in NIT Opening Round

The Cal men's basketball team has survived to play again at Haas Pavilion against the New Mexico Lobos in the opening round of the NIT on Wednesday night; game time is 8 pm. The 24-8 visitors will present a stern challenge to the Bears, who enter the game at 16-15 coming off a blowout loss to UCLA at the Pac-10 Tournament. Cal players had wanted UCLA, but then they got hit by the Bruins' best.

It wasn't pretty. But that's the old news.

Head Coach Ben Braun says his team will be ready to play. At Monday's press conference this week he said, "I know, to a man, our team wants to continue playing, but I also know - to a man - just like any other team - your goal is to get to the NCAA (tournament). I don't care what team you are, you have to come to grips with that."

Former Indiana star Steve Alford's Lobos are led by senior guard J.R. Giddens, a transfer from Kansas. Giddens was voted the Mountain West Co-Player of the Year. He averages 16 points per game and 8.7 rebounds. He led the MWC in rebounding from the guard position. Said Braun, "He's as talented a scorer and as explosive a player as we've seen. He rebounds, he gets to the rim, he creates openings for his team, he can post you up and he knocks down shots." Braun said that Patrick Christopher might draw the opening assignment on Giddens.

Braun compared New Mexico to Oregon. The Lobos play with a 6-9 post player, and four guards. They have good quickness, and shoot the three at a 43% rate, first in the nation. In addition to Giddens, the Lobos feature a freshman point guard, Dairese Gary from Indiana. Chad Toppert comes off the bench shooting 48% from beyond the arc, 3rd in the nation.

Defensively, the visitors pressure the ball, and play mostly man-to-man defense. They like to switch on screens, and held their opponents to 41% field goal shooting this season. The visitors are coming off a tough 82-80 loss to Utah in the MWC Tournament. Cal also lost to Utah by two (at home) during the non-conference portion of the schedule.

The question for Cal will be whether the Bears go small to match New Mexico, or go big and force the visitors to match up with them? Given the Bears' difficulties on the defensive end, it probably would make sense for them to play the big lineup and try to force the Lobos to play Cal's game. If that doesn't work, they can adjust on the fly and play just one post.

Christopher seemed excited about the exposure on ESPN2 for Wednesday night. Asked if he had picked out special shoes for the occasion, he said, "I'll have to check the vault. I really don't know yet what I'm going to bust out." Unfortunately, as he noted, he doesn't have a pair especially good for defense. He joked, "I wish there was a pair like that. I'd get the whole team some."

A Cal win would send the Bears into a second round game against Ohio State in Columbus at the old St. John's Arena.


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It wasn't pretty. But that's the old news.

Head Coach Ben Braun says his team will be ready to play. At Monday's press conference this week he said, \"I know, to a man, our team wants to continue playing, but I also know - to a man - just like any other team - your goal is to get to the NCAA (tournament). I don't care what team you are, you have to come to grips with that.\"

Former Indiana star Steve Alford's Lobos are led by senior guard J.R. Giddens, a transfer from Kansas. Giddens was voted the Mountain West Co-Player of the Year. He averages 16 points per game and 8.7 rebounds. He led the MWC in rebounding from the guard position. Said Braun, \"He's as talented a scorer and as explosive a player as we've seen. He rebounds, he gets to the rim, he creates openings for his team, he can post you up and he knocks down shots.\" Braun said that Patrick Christopher might draw the opening assignment on Giddens.

Braun compared New Mexico to Oregon. The Lobos play with a 6-9 post player, and four guards. They have good quickness, and shoot the three at a 43% rate, first in the nation. In addition to Giddens, the Lobos feature a freshman point guard, Dairese Gary from Indiana. Chad Toppert comes off the bench shooting 48% from beyond the arc, 3rd in the nation.

Defensively, the visitors pressure the ball, and play mostly man-to-man defense. They like to switch on screens, and held their opponents to 41% field goal shooting this season. The visitors are coming off a tough 82-80 loss to Utah in the MWC Tournament. Cal also lost to Utah by two (at home) during the non-conference portion of the schedule.

The question for Cal will be whether the Bears go small to match New Mexico, or go big and force the visitors to match up with them? Given the Bears' difficulties on the defensive end, it probably would make sense for them to play the big lineup and try to force the Lobos to play Cal's game. If that doesn't work, they can adjust on the fly and play just one post.

Christopher seemed excited about the exposure on ESPN2 for Wednesday night. Asked if he had picked out special shoes for the occasion, he said, \"I'll have to check the vault. I really don't know yet what I'm going to bust out.\" Unfortunately, as he noted, he doesn't have a pair especially good for defense. He joked, \"I wish there was a pair like that. I'd get the whole team some.\"

A Cal win would send the Bears into a second round game against Ohio State in Columbus at the old St. John's Arena.


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If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

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