Basketball: North Carolina A&T scouting report

Questions for a Monday night matchup:

Can Cal maintain its torrid 3-point shooting?

Not likely. The Bears are converting 59 percent from beyond the arc through three games, leading the nation. They are a good shooting team, but no one shoots this well for too long. Apparently, the new 20-foot, 9-inch line isn’t an issue for this team.

Will the Golden Bears continue to make progress at the defensive end of the floor?

Coach Mike Montgomery isn’t likely to be satisfied with the Bears’ defense any time soon. He’s not down on his club’s defensive effort, but explained, “Good defense takes time. It doesn’t take anything away from offense. You cross the (midcourt) line, you become a sumo wrestler, you become a street fighter. Cross to the other end you become a virtuoso.”

And if North Carolina A&T isn’t likely to be confused with the top-ranked Tar Heels of UNC, can the Aggies at least provide the Bears with a challenge they haven’t seen in their first three games?

The Aggies go 6-7, 6-8 and 6-9 across their frontline — bigger than Cal has seen this season — and therefore provide a matchup that may prompt Montgomery to give 7-foot center Jordan Wilkes more playing time tonight. Wilkes averaged just 16 minutes against USF and Texas-Pan American because they were quicker, smaller teams.

A&T SCOUT: The Aggies bring a 2-2 record to Haas Pavilion, having beaten the U.S. Merchant Marines and Talladega and lost to Central Florida and UNLV.

“We’re playing a pretty good A&T team that’s legit,” Montgomery said.

A&T held a 45-44 lead at Vegas with just under 12 minutes left on Saturday night before losing 71-58, and outrebounded the Runnin’ Rebels 36-31. That should get the attention of the Bears, who were beaten 22-19 on the boards Thursday in their 27-point win over Texas-Pan American.

A&T was picked just eighth by the coaches in the 11-team Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but coach Jerry Eaves is convinced his club is better than that.

“We’re getting better,” Eaves told reporters after the UNLV loss. “It’s just hard to win on someone else’s court, especially in the environment we played in tonight. But we are good enough to win some of these games. We just have to do the things necessary to win these kinds of games.”

HIGH PRAISE: “It is early. If you watch games on television, they look awful, the ball going all over the place,” Montgomery said. “I’m glad we’re not doing that.”

TIPOFF: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Haas Pavilion, Berkeley.
TV: None. RADIO: 1550 AM.

OUTLOOK: Cal (3-0) tries to make Montgomery the school’s first coach since Rene Herrerias in 1960-61 _ and just the second since 1917 _ to start 4-0 in his debut season . . . Cal has never played North Carolina A&T and is 7-0 all-time vs. current members of the MEAC .. . North Carolina A&T (2-2) has averaged 82.5 points in wins over the Merchant Marines and Talladega but just 60 points in losses to Central Florida and Nevada-Las Vegas. The Aggies are surrendering 20.3 turnovers per game . . . Senior wing Nicholas Wilson has yet to start a game for the Aggies, but averages 13.5 points. 5.3 rebounds and leads the team in minutes played . . . Starting forward Robert Johnson missed A&T’s game at UNLV after spraining his ankle the day before in practice. His status for Monday night is unknown.


   PF Jamal Boykin, 6-8, Jr., 11.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
   SF Theo Robertson, 6-5, Jr., 14.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg
   C Jordan Wilkes, 7-0, Jr., 4.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg
   SG Patrick Christopher, 6-5, Jr., 13.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg
   PG Jerome Randle, 5-10, Jr., 19.7 ppg, 5.3 apg

   North Carolina A&T:
   PF Julian McClurkin, 6-8, Sr., 2.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg
   SF Ed Jones, 6-7, Sr., 15.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg
   C Thomas Coleman, 6-9, So., 7.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg
   SF Robert Johnson, 6-6, Jr., 10.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg
   PG Tavarus Alston, 6-0, Jr., 11.3 ppg, 4.8 apg

Jeff Faraudo