UCLA has beaten the Golden Bears the past five meetings — dating back to the Ayinde Ubaka-fueled Cal victory at the 2007 Pac-10 tournament.
But don’t confuse the team visiting Haas Pavilion tonight with most recent Bruins squads. This UCLA team (6-8, 1-1) is the first in seven seasons to arrive in the Bay Area with a losing record.
“They’re still UCLA,” cautioned Cal senior Theo Robertson.
That’s what the name on the uniform will say, but these Bruins are young, erratic and don’t resemble the hard-nosed defensive clubs that coach Ben Howland directed to Final Four appearances in 2006, ’07 and ’08. Their field-goal defensive numbers are at or near the bottom of the Pac-10. On top of that, they ranked last in the conference in free-throw accuracy.
This team is 0-5 away from Pauley Pavilion, where it actually lost to Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State.
“There’s no excuse,” Howland said. ” We should definitely be more successful than we have been this year. I take responsbility.”
At Pauley last weekend to open the Pac-10 schedule, Howland actually went to a zone defense to help him beat Arizona State. Two days later, he decided that would only further hamper the Bruins’ rebounding problems in a loss to Arizona.
Cal coach Mike Montgomery expects the Bears might see some zone tonight, but knows it’s not Howland’s preference.
“I don’t think he has the same level of physical play that he normally has had defensively,” Montgomery said. “In this particular case (against ASU), it worked, so he stayed with it.”
In any case, Montgomery isn’t taking the Bruins lightly.
“They’re young, but they’re very highly recruited players,” Montgomery said. “They’ve had some games where you kind of scratch your head. But I think they’re a very capable team because they can shoot the ball. Ben’s a very, very good coach and you have all the UCLA tradition. Kids go there to win.”
HOWLAND ON BEARS: Asked to evaluate Cal, Howland said, “Obviously, they’re a very good team. They were picked for first coming out of the gate. They are definitely an NCAA Tournament team.
“Those four seniors — Randle, Christopher, Robertson and Boykin — are really good players. They’re all very efficient, confident, and they all shoot it so well. They’re tough. They’re a real hard matchup because they have such great ability to shoot the ball with range and yet they can put the ball on the floor and drive it.”
Howland chalks up the Bears’ four defeats to a tough schedule, either on the road or at a hostile neutral court. “Syracuse plays in (Madison square) Garden all the time. It’s a long way to go back there,” he said. “New Mexico is really good. Then they played at Kansas and played them really tough. Kansas had a hard time guarding Cal, and that’s the number 1 team in the country.”
MOST RECENT CAL HOME WIN: Cal has not beaten UCLA in Berkeley since a 76-62 win on Jan. 24, 2004, when Leon Powe had 19 points and 14 rebounds and Amit Tamir scored 19.
IT’S EARLY, BUT . . . The Bears’ 80.4 scoring average and their plus-7.4 rebounding margin both rank second-best in school history.
SCHEDULE UPDATE: Cal’s return game with Kansas at Berkeley next season has been set for Dec. 22.
The Bears will play away from home just twice in the non-conference season, at Iowa State in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, and in Orlando,Fla., at the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving. The field includes Boston College, Georgia, Manhattan, Notre Dame, Temple, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. Pairings are yet to be determined.
The home schedule also will include visits by New Mexico and UC Davis. The only team to have signed a contract to play in the Golden Bear Classic is Southern Miss.
MISCELLANY: With seven points tonight, senior Theo Robertson (993 points) joins teammates Jerome Randle (1,439) and Patrick Christopher (1,385) in the 1,000-point club. They will become the first threesome from the same Cal team to each accumulate 1,000 career points since Kevin Johnson (1,655), Dave Butler (1,291) and Chris Washington (1,129) did it in 1987. At their current pace, Robertson, Randle and Christopher will easily surpass the total of 4,125 points those three logged . . . Over the past three games, Randle is averaging 21.0 ppg on 21-for-30 shooting (70 percent) and 11-for-16 (68.7 percent) from 3-PT distance . . . Sophomore PG Jerime Anderson will be held out of UCLA’s starting lineup tonight as a disciplinary measure after he was late for a Sunday rehab session . . . Cal sixth-man Jorge Gutierrez (knee) is expected to miss both games this week.
TIPOFF: 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley.
CAL (9-4, 1-0)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SF Theo Robertson 6-6 Sr. 12.9 3.6
PF Jamal Boykin 6-8 Sr. 11.6 6.8
C Markhuri Sanders-Frison 6-8 Jr. 3.1 4.3
SG Patrick Christopher 6-5 Sr. 16.2 5.4
PG Jerome Randle 5-10 Sr. 19.6 4.9*
G Nikola Knezevic 6-3 Sr. 3.2 0.5
F Omondi Amoke 6-7 So. 5.8 6.1
C Max Zhang 7-2 So. 4.3 3.3
UCLA (6-8, 1-1)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Nikola Dragovic 6-9 Sr. 10.4 5.4
SF Tyler Honeycutt 6-7 Fr. 5.0 5.0
C Reeves Nelson 6-8 Fr. 10.1 6.0
SG Michael Roll 6-5 Sr. 13.2 2.4
PG Malcolm Lee 6-4 So. 14.6 4.7
F James Keefe 6-8 Sr. 2.3 3.5
G Jerime Anderson 6-2 So. 6.3 4.4*
* – Assists