Knights on a Mission in Sunny Cali

With weekend's arrival most anxiously look forward to forty-eight hours of R&R. If you're the 3/2 RU Scarlet Knights, however, this weekend's workload resembles the daunting stretch one may expect in the late stages of the NCAA Tournament. RU will square off against a pair of CA's top basketball teams, and the mission begins tonight against 7/6 Cal at the 11,877 seat Haas Pavilion in Berkeley.

Early season stretches that resemble match-ups often seen in the late stages of the NCAA Tournament are no stranger to Coach C. Vivian Stringer's Scarlet Knights. It's this grueling string that prepares Coach Stringer's squad for the rigors of the Big East season and beyond. But, even by RU's daunting standards, this weekend's getaway to sunny California raises an eyebrow as the Scarlet Knights will face a pair of top 10 opponents in the span of three days.

After winning their opening two games of the 2008-2009 season by an average of 37.5 points per game, Rutgers takes their show on the road to face 7/6 Cal (2-0), on Friday evening in Berkeley, CA.

The Scarlet Knights enter tonight's contest with a perfect 3-0 record versus the Bears, having defeated Cal at the RAC last season, 56-51. The Scarlet Knights also faced Cal during the 2002-2003 season, when RU opened its season in similar fashion to this year, by playing a pair of name opponents on the road, namely Stanford and Cal. RU lost to Stanford by 4 points but bounced back and defeated the Golden Bears 56-49, two days later.

Rutgers comes into the game as one of the hottest shooting teams from the perimeter, clipping the nets from beyond the 3-point arc at a rate of 51.5%. Conversely, Cal has taken advantage at the charity stripe, hitting 75% of their free throws (40 attempts).

The Scarlet Knights have not trailed thus far this season and the contest at Cal, RU's initial ranked opponent of the year, has been similarly impressive in putting their opponents away, securing a 19 point per game margin of victory in their two wins.

Rutgers is led by Epiphanny Prince's 20.5 ppg and Kia Vaughn's 7 rpg, while the Golden Bears, who opened the season with victories over Albany (63-39) and Nevada (67-53), are led by Sr. Ashley Walker's 25 ppg and 12.5 rpg.

The Bears frontcourt may be aided by the return of a pair of their top bigs, in senior forward Devanei Hampton and junior forward Rama N'diaye. While both have returned to practice this week, their status will not be disclosed until game time.

The game is set to tip-off at 8:00 p.m. PST and will air locally on Fox Sports/SNY in the New York Metropolitan area and on Comcast in the San Francisco Bay area.

SOR will be on hand in Berkeley this evening and Rutgers fans can expect full post-game coverage and analysis.

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