The two hottest teams in the Pac-10 meet at Haas Pavilion on Saturday evening and one of them is not preseason favorite Washington.
“There were some surprises,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said Thursday night after UW fell out of a first-place tie with a loss at Oregon State, its second straight road setback. Washington State lost at Oregon and fell to fifth place.
“What’s becoming a little bit apparent to me,” Montgomery said, “is the league is probably a little better than people are giving it credit for.”
Two teams that didn’t lose, of course, were Cal and Arizona, who collide tonight, each riding a four-game win streak.
The Bears remain alone in fourth place; Arizona has sole possession of first.
But a Cal win tonight and the Bears — picked seventh in the Pac-10 — are just one game out of first.
“We’re playing with some confidence. We feel like we can win,” Montgomery said after the Bears’ 66-62 win over Arizona State. “We’ve got a pretty good mix of players. Markhuri (Sanders-Frison) missed some shots that we’re kind of used to him making.
“Harper (Kamp) is kind of a hybrid (who) does a few different things, Jorge (Gutierrez is) is driver. Allen (Crabbe) is a shooter. And Brandon (Smith) is doing a heck of a job running it.
“We’ve got a good combination of people out there that are working together pretty well.”
ARIZONA SCOUT: The Wildcats are led by sophomore forward Derrick Williams, who averages 19.9 ppg and has attempted eight or more free throws in 17 games this season. He was 16 for 22 in the win over Cal last month. Williams sprained the pinkie finger on his right shooting hand a week ago Thursday against UCLA and played with a bandage around his hand at Stanford. Because he is ambidextrous, the injury has not impacted his shooting ability . . . Arizona keeps defenses honest by shooting 40.8 percent from the 3-point arc, best in the Pac-10. In conference games, in fact, the Wildcats boast the three most accurate 3-point shooters in the Pac-10 . . . The Cats are second in the league in scoring (77.2 ppg) and third in scoring defense (65.0). They play man-to-man defense and have held opponents to 26.5 percent from the 3-point arc, by far the best mark in the conference . . . Sophomore PG MoMo Jones is the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Week, but he sat out two days of practice this week because of a hip pointer and sprained knee. He played at Stanford.
MONTGOMERY ON WILLIAMS: “He was pretty good last year. He’s stronger. He’s shooting the ball from the outside. He doesn’t shoot a lot, but he’s shooting a very high percentage (68.6 percent). He’s really explosive from the elbow area. He’s not a center, really, but that’s kind of where he plays for them so he gets matched up against other big players and he really has an ability to get angles to the basket and finish. He’s one of the better players in the conference, clearly.”
THE SERIES: Arizona leads 53-28 all-time, including a 73-71 victory at Tucson last month. The Bears had won three of the previous four meetings, their best stretch in the series since winning five of six from 1982 through ’84.
ETCETERA: Harper Kamp is second in the Pac-10 in free-throw accuracy at 83.8 percent . . . Freshman Allen Crabbe is averaging 36.5 minutes per game in conference games, leading the Pac-10. Jorge Gutierrez is tied for second at 35.5 minutes . . . The Bears rank second in Pac-10 games in scoring at 75.1 ppg but are last in defense, allowing 73.7 . . . The Wildcats converted 77.9 percent of their free throws in non-conference play, but are making just 69.3 percent in Pac-10 games.
TIPOFF: 5 p.m. Saturday at Haas Pavilion. TV: CSNCA. Radio: 910-AM.
Cal (13-9, 6-4)
|PF Harper Kamp||6-8||Jr.||14.3||5.5|
|C Markhuri Sanders-Frison||6-7||Sr.||11.0||7.9|
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||Fr.||11.7||5.6|
|SG Jorge Gutierrez||6-3||Jr.||12.6||4.5*|
|PG Brandon Smith||5-11||So.||5.5||3.5*|
|F Richard Solomon||6-9||Fr.||5.5||4.1|
|F Bak Bak||6-9||So.||2.6||2.5|
|G Emerson Murray||6-3||Fr.||0.6||0.6|
Arizona (19-4, 8-2)
|PF Derrick Williams||6-8||So.||19.9||7.7|
|SF Jesse Perry||6-7||Jr.||6.3||4.3|
|SF Solomon Hill||6-6||So.||8.1||4.3|
|SG Kyle Fogg||6-3||Jr.||7.9||2.8*|
|PG MoMo Jones||5-10||So.||9.0||2.5*|
|G/F Kevin Parrom||6-6||So.||6.7||3.3|
|F Jamelle Horne||6-7||Sr.||6.6||4.0|
|G Brandon Lavender||6-5||Jr.||4.7||1.2|