Hoops Preview - California

Now with a four-game winning streak, the Washington Huskies (16-7, 6-5) will return to the winless road to face the first place California Golden Bears (15-8, 7-4) Thursday night at 6 p.m. PST. It will be aired live on ESPN2 from the Haas Pavilion with Dave O'Brien doing the play-by-play and Steve Lavin as the color guy.

With the Huskies winless in six tries away from home this season, Husky Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said that the game against the Bears is an important game for several reasons.

"It's the next game," Romar said. "Like I've said many times before, there are different challenges to each game and different ramifications for winning and losing and this one is the next game and so it's huge. Obviously, it's a chance for us to get our first road victory and an opportunity to tie for the conference lead. There is a lot at stake. But if it was reversed and Stanford was the next game, it would be just as big for different reasons."

Although California is a game ahead of the Huskies, it was Washington that tacked on a loss to the Golden Bears' season the last time the two teams met on Jan. 16. The final score was 84-69 at Bank of America Arena. It turned out to be a one-sided affair, as the Huskies ran out to quick lead, and by halftime were ahead 50-31. In the second-half, California outscored the Huskies 38-34, but the Huskies lead was too great to overcome.

Leading the way for Washington was their senior captain Quincy Pondexter, who had 25 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and 11-of-11 shooting from the line. Also having a big game was the diminutive guard Isaiah Thomas. He finished with 20 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the floor, 8 of 10 shooting from the charity stripe and two steals.

As a team, the Huskies shot 40.5 percent from the field and were 83.3 percent from the line. They also pulled in 38 rebounds, dished-out 15 assists and had just 14 turnovers.

On the other end of the court, California was led by the strong play of Patrick Christopher, who led all scorers with 28 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the floor and 14-of-18 shooting from the line. He also had eight rebounds and four steals to go with his scoring outburst.

Their star player, Jerome Randle, was shut down by the Huskies and finished with only five points on 2-of-9 shooting from the field. This was after going for a career-high 39 two nights earlier at Washington State. He also had eight turnovers and four personal fouls to complete his all-around poor effort.

California, as a team, shot 33.3 percent from the field and 64 percent from the free-throw line. They were also forced into 21 turnovers and had just 31 rebounds.

Even though California's record isn't that flashy, they played tough teams in the preseason and suffered losses to Syracuse, Ohio State, New Mexico and Kansas. In Pac-10 play they have fallen to UCLA, Washington, Arizona and USC.

Their wins this season have come against Murray State, Detroit, Jacksonville, Princeton, Iowa State, Pacific, Utah Valley State, UC Santa Barbara, Stanford, USC, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona State and UCLA.

This season they are 11-1 at home, 4-5 on the road and 0-2 on neutral courts. Their only home loss was to UCLA on Jan. 6 in overtime, 76-75.

The most veteran-laden roster in the Pac-10, California features five seniors and two juniors. Leading the way has been the senior point guard Randle, who ranks fourth in the Pac-10 in scoring with an average of 19.1 points a game on 45 percent shooting from the field, and an incredible 92 percent from the line on 100 attempts. He also averages 4.7 assists, but has been prone to turnovers with 3.7 a game.

Next in line for the Golden Bears is Christopher. Another senior guard, he is averaging 16.3 points a game on 45 percent shooting from the floor. Like Randle, he is consistent from the free-throw line, shooting 83 percent. He also averages 5.7 rebounds and leads the team with 1.7 steals a game.

The third impact senior is Theo Robertson, a 6-foot-6 senior forward. His season got off to a rocky start, as he played the first two games before going down with an injury, missing the next six games. It hasn't affected his play much of late, as he is averaging 14.2 points per game on 50 percent shooting. He is also shooting 78 percent from the line and 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Missing in action the last time the two teams met was sophomore guard Jorge Gutierrez. Although he doesn't score a lot of points - 4.9 a game - or stuff the stat sheet, Romar said that he can still impact a game in many ways.

"He provides some additional toughness," Romar said. "As well as Theo Robertson, he is probably their best defender and a little bit of experience. Even though he is still a fairly young player, boy he has been through the war as a freshman and he plays like he is a senior because of his tenacity and his grit."

The projected starting lineup for the Golden Bears is Randle and Christopher in the backcourt and Robertson, Omondi Amoke and Jamal Boykin in the frontcourt. Gutierrez and Markhuri Sanders-Frison will be key players off of the bench, as well as the Pac-10's tallest player - 7-foot-3 Max Zhang.

As a team, California averages 77.7 points a game, which ranks them second in the conference behind UW (81.3) and 38th in the nation. They allow their opponents 68.4 points a game on average, which is good enough for fifth best in the conference.

UW has outrebounded California this year by an average of 39.8 to 37.1 boards per game, but the Golden Bears have been the most efficient shooting team in the Pac-10 at 47.2 percent from the field. UW ranks fifth at 44.3 percent.

The derby between the two schools dates back to 1916 and Cal currently leads the series by one game, 76-75. UW is 26-47 while playing at California. Washington has swept the season series 13 times, last doing it in 2005.

After the game with the Bears, the Huskies will be hosted by the last place Stanford Cardinal (10-13, 4-7) on Saturday at 5 p.m. PST. The game will be held in Maples Pavilion, where Washington has only won once since 1993. The game will be on FSN (TV) and 950 KJR (Radio).

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