A reunion of sorts tonight for seniors Jamal Boykin of Cal and Eric Boateng of Arizona State.
The two began their college careers at Duke, both transferring out as sophomores. Now they’ll bang one another in the low post when the Bears (13-6, 5-2) face the Sun Devils (14-6, 4-3) at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We were roommates. I consider him like a brother,” Boykin said this week. “You start out with someone in college, go through the same things, we have a special bond.”
Both played in these matchups a year ago, but power forward Boykin never guarded Boateng, or vice versa. Harper Kamp (injured) or Jordan Wilkes (departed) had the assignment for Cal against Boateng, a true center.
“It should be fun,” Boykin said.
Boateng made the call to exit first, and Boykin said he figured that opened the door a bit more for his future. He was going to redshirt that season, anyway, because he missed time with mononucleosis. Ultimately, he followed Boateng out the door.
“It was just a realization of where you stood in the program and understandng the role we had envisioned going into Duke wouldn’t be the role that would be carried out over those four years,” Boykin said.
Three years later, Boykin has no hard feelings. He said he enjoyed his time at Duke, and still follows them on TV. Actually, he can hardly get away from them.
“They’re on TV more than a lot of NBA teams. In our locker room, ESPN is on all the time, so you can’t help but see them,” he said. “I think they’re a great basketball team to watch.”
Boykin said the Bears, who play their next four games on the road, are entering a key stretch in their season.
“It’s very huge,” he said. “If we can come out on top of these four games, we’ll definitely be looking at the Pac-10 championship, which has been our goal for the past two years.”
ASU SCOUT: The Bears face another zone defense, but the Sun Devils’ version is a bit different than Syracuse, Ohio State, UCLA or Oregon State. “Probably the easiest way to decribe it, is it’s a switching man to man,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. So a ballhandler will get past his man, only to be met by a second defender. The trick, said Cal senior Theo Robertson, is understanding when you’re open and when you’re not. “You have to be real aware of what they’re trying to do. They disguise a lot of things,” he said. Until their 77-58 home loss to rival Arizona on Saturday, the Sun Devils had allowed just one of 10 previous opponents to reach 60 points.
The balanced offense is led by senior PG Derek Glasser, who will needs just six assists to reach 500 for his career. “Glasser turned out to be a really nice player, and I don’t think you would have known that,” Montgomery said. “I think a lot of them deferred (last year) to (James) Harden.” Harden (20.1 ppg) left after his sophomore season for the NBA and forward Jeff Pendergraph (14.5 ppg) graduated. ASU also features junior SF Rihards Kuksiks, who leads the team at 13.0 ppg and has made 55 3-pointers. Junior guard Ty Abbott totaled 55 points in two games against the Bears in 2007-08, shooting 15-for-29 from the 3-PT line.
SUCCESS NO SURPRISE TO ASU: Despite losing Harden and Pendergraph, Glasser said the Sun Devils had no doubts they could be a strong team.
“We definitely expected to be in the hunt for the Pac-10 championship. Our goal was to win the Pac-10,” the senior point guard said. “We definitely felt in our locker room we had enough talent with the guys coming back, that we were plenty good enough to win it.
“Defensively, we knew we were going to be as good as last year. Offensively, guys who were role players last year were going to have their chance to flourish.”
ZONING OUT: The Bears averaged 73.5 points in two games last season against ASU, so maybe they have a better handle on attacking the Sun Devils’ zone defense. But Cal has struggled against zones this season, going 1-3 in games against Syracuse, Ohio State, UCLA and Oregon State. They are averaging 70.8 points in those four games, compared to 81.3 in their other 15 games. They shot just 42.4 percent in those games, 49.2 percent the rest of the time. The biggest discrepancy is from the 3-point arc, where Cal converted just 27.8 percent against those four opponents, but has made 39.4 percent otherwise.
INJURY REPORT: Cal junior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison (back) did not travel with the team Wednesday and will not play tonight. But he is expected to join the team on Friday, and could play Sunday at Arizona. ASU junior guard Jamelle McMillan (plantar fasciitis in his left foot) is doubtful to play.
THE SERIES: The teams split two meetings a year ago, Cal winning 81-71 in Berkeley, ASU prevailing 83-66 at Tempe. Jerome Randle totaled 50 points in the two games, while ASU’s James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph — now both departed from the program — combined for 89 points over the two games. ASU leads the all-time series 35-32.
MISCELLANY: The senior threesome of Jerome Randle (1,540 points), Patrick Christopher (1,463) and Theo Robertson (1,089) have totaled 4,092 career points, leaving them just 33 points shy of the total accumulated by 1987 grads Kevin Johnson (1,655), Dave Butler (1,291) and Chris Washington (1,179) . . . Randle and Christopher rank 8th and 9th on Cal’s all-time list. Next up is Brian Hendrick (1990-93), who scored 1,556 points . . . Robertson has climbed to No. 28 on the same list and is 23 points behind Andy Wolfe (1946-48), once Cal’s career scoring king with 1,112 points . . . Randle ranks first in the Pac-10 in FT accuracy (93.2 percent) and ASU point guard Derek Glasser is second (90.5) . . . Cal leads the Pac-10 in scoring offense at 79.1 ppg and ASU is second in scoring defense at 55.8 ppg allowed.
TIPOFF: 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.
CAL (13-6, 5-2)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SF Theo Robertson 6-6 Sr. 14.3 4.5
PF Jamal Boykin 6-8 Sr. 11.1 6.3
PF Omondi Amoke 6-7 So. 5.6 5.6
SG Patrick Christopher 6-5 Sr. 16.3 5.5
PG Jerome Randle 5-10 Sr. 18.7 4.7*
G Jorge Gutierrez 6-3 So. 5.4 3.0
C Markhuri Sanders-Frison 6-7 Jr. 3.4 3.6
C Max Zhang 7-2 So. 3.9 2.9
Arizona State (14-6, 4-3)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SF Rihards Kuksiks 6-6 Jr. 13.0 3.4
C Eric Boateng 6-10 Sr. 7.4 6.3
SG Trent Lockett 6-5 Fr. 7.4 3.5
SG Ty Abbott 6-3 Jr. 10.1 3.6
PG Derek Glasser 6-1 Sr. 10.4 5.1*
G Jamelle McMillan 6-2 Jr. 7.9 3.6
G Demetrius Walker 6-4 Fr. 4.5 1.3
G Jerren Shipp 6-3 Sr. 3.6 1.9
* – Assists