HUSKIES MARCH INTO FINAL WEEK

Who'd have thunk it? <br><br> This Thursday night – and for the first time this century - the Washington Huskies will play a meaningful game in March, when they host the California Golden Bears at Bank of America arena for a 7:00 PM tip-off.

California (9-7, 13-12) at Washington (10-6, 15-10)
Thursday, March 4 – 7:00 PM, BOA Arena
Last Meeting: Jan 2, 2004 – at California
California 76, Washington 62


Meaningful in that the Huskies are looking to continue a late-season run that currently boasts ten conference wins in their last 11 tries – the sort of thing that the NCAA selection committee likes.

But even more meaningful is the chance to secure second place in the PAC-10 regular season standings, thereby guaranteeing being in the opposite bracket from top-ranked Stanford at next week's conference tournament in Los Angeles and completing a remarkable last-place-to-second turnaround in a span of six weeks.

On Saturday, Washington will get their shot at hosting the unbeaten Cardinal in the regular-season finale. But first things first.

After all, California also harbors thoughts of a second-place league finish, sitting just a game behind Washington in the conference standings and looking for a second consecutive season sweep over the Huskies. "We've got to make every minute count," says Cal senior Amit Tamir, who dropped 21 points on Washington in the teams' first meeting on January 2nd in Berkeley – including four late three-pointers that sealed the Huskies' coffin. "It will be about giving maximum effort."

Probable PAC-10 Freshman-of-the-Year Leon Powe contributed 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Bears in the conference opener for both teams, while 6-2 freshman point guard Ayinde Ubaka contributed 13 points and a game-high eight assists. The 6-8 Powe leads the PAC-10 in double-doubles with 13, and is just about a lock to become the first true frosh in league history to lead the conference in rebounding.

Yet another diaper dandy, 6-5 Marquise Kately, missed last Saturday's Oregon State game with a sprained toe, but figures to return here. Sophomore shooting guard Richard Midgley was named the PAC-10's Player-of-the-Week in Cal's sweep of the Arizona schools in early February – the same week Kately would put up a career-best 24 points against ASU.

California coach Ben Braun thinks that tempo will have much to do with his team's chance at success. "Washington doesn't let you get into rhythm very often," Braun said at his weekly press conference, "so we're going to have to try and control the tempo – be tough with the ball while being patient and make it our choice when we're going to run."

"I think the second half of the year Washington has been playing up to the level that they are capable of. They're playing really well."

For Washington, Hakeem Rollins hauled down 10 boards and blocked six shots at Haas Pavilion, and Tre Simmons hit a 50-foot buzzer-beater at the half en route to a team-leading 16 points. At the time, the half-court heave pulled Washington to within 10 points, and the Huskies would eventually come back to tie it at 53 with less than 10 minutes remaining before California pulled away late with a deafening volley of threes.

While tournament-starved Husky fans are reveling in Washington's recent success and causing them to wonder aloud where the Dawgs stand as far as the NCAA selection committee goes, Husky point guard Will Conroy doesn't buy into such conjecture. "There's only one way to get in the tournament," says the junior co-captain. "Just keep winning."

Starting with Thursday night.

Who'd have thunk it?
GAME NOTES: Tamir also led the way with 26 points in the Bears' appearance last season in Seattle, a 76-66 Cal victory. Overall, California has taken seven out of the last eight in the series - including the last three in a row – so it can be viewed as another payback game for Washington ... Cal is the worst free-throw shooting team in the conference at 62 percent. They've also scored the exact same amount of points in conference games (1118) as they have given up ... Washington's Bobby Jones is shooting 68 percent from the field (34-for-50) over his last six games ... Ironically, both teams have four players averaging in double-figures ...

PROBABLE STARTERS:
CALIFORNIA

No.  Player             YR  HT   WT    PTS  REB
-----------------------------------------------
25   Marquise Kately    FR  6-5  220  11.0  3.0
44   Leon Powe          FR  6-8  245  15.2  9.6
24   Amit Tamir         SR  6-10 260  12.3  5.4
 1   Ayinde Ubaka       FR  6-2  200   6.8  4.0*
15   Richard Midgley    SO  6-2  200  10.6  2.6 

WASHINGTON

No.  Player             YR  HT   WT    PTS  REB
-----------------------------------------------
15   Bobby Jones        SO  6-6  200  11.2  5.1
42   Mike Jensen        SO  6-8  230   7.0  4.4
 2   Nate Robinson      SO  5-9  170  12.5  3.8
 3   Brandon Roy        SO  6-5  195  13.6  5.3
 5   Will Conroy        JR  6-1  190  12.3  4.6*

* - assists per game  

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