Cal recently solved two of the Pac-10’s peskiest zone defenses, and today will get the chance to work against a man-to-man team once more.
On the heels of beating Arizona State with its matchup zone and Oregon State with its 1-3-1 alignment, the stakes are higher still today when the Bears face Arizona at McKale Center. “Arizona’s going to play man and, of course, it’s been a little while since we’ve played against man,’ Cal coach Mike Montgomery said.’
With a victory, the first-place Bears can forge a two-game lead over the rest of the league at the halfway point of the Pac-10 schedule. A loss would drop them into a tie for the top spot with the Wildcats, just one game ahead of Arizona State and UCLA, just two games ahead of five more teams.
We could have some clarity, or perhaps a very murky picture headed into the second round of Pac-10 play.
This is Game 2 of a stretch of four consecutive road contests, and the Bears had an extra day to prep after Thursday night’s 78-70 win at ASU.
Montgomery, whose Stanford teams had epic battles with Lute Olson’s best Arizona teams, knows today is a big deal. But he isn’t making more of it than it is.
“It’s a long season,” he said. “You try to put things in a context (players) understand. One loss doesnt kill you, one win doesn’t put you over the top. They’re going to have to motivate themselves to play. You can’t trick them every day. They have to have it within them.”
We’ll find out today if the Bears do.
ARIZONA SCOUT: The Wildcats have won three in a row, by margins of 14, 19 and 18 to move within one game of the Bears at the top of the Pac-10. They are becoming more consistent and more confident. “They’re starting to understand what it is they’re trying to do. They’ve got some young kids and a new coach — they’ve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “Defensively, they’re good. They really look like they’re well-coached as far as their man (defense). They’ve got good shooters and they space the floor very well.
“(Point guard Nic) Wise does a real good job of coming off pick-and-rolls and finding shooters. (Forward Derrick) Williams is a really good inside player for his size, very clever.”
Williams is one of three freshmen who switched commitments from USC to Arizona after the Trojans dumped coach Tim Floyd last spring and the Wildcats hired Sean Miller from Xavier. “They should burn the incense for USC because (Solomon) Hill and Williams and MoMo Jones are really good gets for them, especially Williams.”
Williams has scored 20 points or more in four consecutive games, the first time an Arizona freshman has done that since Gilbert Arenas in February 2000.
Sophomore SG Kyle Fogg, who averaged just 6.1 ppg a year ago, has evolved into one of the Pac-10’s most improved players. “He’s been a nice cog,” said Montgomery, not entirely surprised by Fogg’s development. “I think kids, when given an opporutunity, do improve. A guy like Fogg has continued t0 work. It’s good to see guys like that.”
AZ ON RANDLE: “Randle is having an MVP-type year. He’s an elite-level shooter. He can hurt you in so many ways, but the way he’s most dangerous is behind the arc. They score really well in transition, and in half-court, they play well. (Randle) can get in the lane and it’s not like you can run two or three guys at him, because he can pass and the other guys can shoot.” — UA assistant coach James Whitford.
THE SERIES: Cal won both meetings a year ago, including an 83-77 win at Tucson with Jerome Randle scoring a then-career-high 31 points. That snapped a 14-game losing streak at McKale Center by the Bers. The Wildcats lead 51-27 in the all-time series.
MISCELLANY: Senior Patrick Christopher needs 16 points to reach 1,500 for his career. He ranks ninth all-time at Cal with 1,484 points . . . Christopher is expected to make his 100th career start today . . . Senior Jerome Randle moved past Brian Hendrick into seventh with 1,565 points. Next up: No. 6 Leonard Taylor (1985-89) with 1,608 points . . . The threesome of Randle, Christopher and Theo Robertson has combined for 4,138 career points — most by any trio of Cal players in the same senior class . . . With 212 career 3-point baskets, Randle can break Ryan Drew’s school record with three more today . . . Arizona (.743) and Cal (.739) are 1-2 in the Pac-10 in free throw accuracy . . . Cal junior C Markhuri Sanders-Frison (back) did not make the trip to Arizona.
TIPOFF: 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: McKale Center, Tuscon, Ariz.
CAL (14-6, 6-2)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SF Theo Robertson 6-6 Sr. 13.3 4.4
PF Jamal Boykin 6-8 Sr. 11.8 6.5
PF Omondi Amoke 6-7 So. 5.3 5.5
SG Patrick Christopher 6-5 Sr. 16.5 5.7
PG Jerome Randle 5-10 Sr. 19.1 4.7*
G Jorge Gutierrez 6-3 So. 5.2 3.0
G Nikola Knezevic 6-2 Sr. 2.4 0.3
C Max Zhang 7-2 So. 3.8 2.9
Arizona (11-9, 5-3)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SF Kevin Parrom 6-6 Fr. 3.5 3.5
PF Derrick Williams 6-8 Fr. 16.0 7.2
SF Jamelle Horne 6-7 Jr. 11.1 6.5
SG Kyle Fogg 6-3 So. 11.1 3.2
PG Nic Wise 5-10 Sr. 15.3 4.0*
G Lamont Jones 6-0 Fr. 4.9 1.4
G Solomon Hill 6-6 Fr. 7.0 4.7
G Brendon Lavender 6-5 So. 2.9 1.3
* – Assists