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Cal basketball: Utah’s Jakob Poeltl to provide another challenge to Bears’ big men

Cal leads the nation in 2-point field-goal percentage defense, which will come in handy Wednesday night at Utah. Sophomore 7-footer Jakob Poeltl averages 16.9 points for the Utes, and every one of his 193 shot attempts has come from 2-point distance.

Tipoff is 8 p.m. on ESPNU.

The Bears (14-6, 4-3 Pac-12) and Utes (15-5, 4-3) are part of a six-team mess in third place in the conference standings, one game back of co-leaders Oregon and Washington.

The challenge for the Bears will be to defend the Utes as effectively as they did on Jan. 3 in Berkeley, when they scored a 71-58 victory.

And, of course, to figure out how to do it on the road.

Cal, 13-0 at home after sweeping the Oregon schools, has won just once outside the Berkeley city limits this season. At least it was another Mountain Time Zone game – a 78-72 win at Wyoming back on Dec. 5.

The Bears held Utah to 38.5 percent shooting in the first meeting, and did a solid job on Poeltl, projected as a first-round NBA draft pick. He scored 19 points on 6-for-14 shooting, but did not take over the game.

Coach Cuonzo Martin said slowing down Poeltl is easier said than done because he “impacts the game in so many ways.” Poeltl is coming off a 29-point, 10-rebound effort in the Utes’ 80-75 overtime win at Washington.

Cal’s tag-team 7-foot duo of Kingsley Okoroh and Kam Rooks will once more use their length – and their fouls – to try keeping Poeltl off balance.

“I thought Kam and King did a really good job of just being big and making him take tough shots,” Martin said. “You can’t let him get low post easy catches. You have to make him to go his second and third options.”

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Cal basketball: Cuonzo Martin makes the right moves

With his team’s postseason hopes – and his young program’s reputation — possibly at stake, Cuonzo Martin delivered his best week as coach at Cal.

The Bears were coming off three straight road defeats and, at 2-3 in the Pac-12 were mired in the lower division of the standings. All-Pac-12 point guard Tyrone Wallace was on the shelf with a broken hand. Arizona was coming to town.

Expected to challenge for the Pac-12 title and make noise in the postseason, Cal needed a big week. A loss or two and everything could steamroll in the wrong direction. Not just the Bears’ NCAA tournament prospects, but the way they are viewed by recruits and NBA scouts – both of whom were well-represented at Haas Pavilion on Saturday.

The Bears won twice, including a 74-73 victory over Arizona that lifts them within a game of first place, albeit as part of a six-way tie for third.

Here’s how Martin helped make it happen:

— With leading scorer and lone senior Wallace sidelined, Martin gave junior backup Sam Singer the structure to operate effectively at the point. The Bears worked to exploit their size advantage against Arizona State and Singer responded with eight first-half assists that set a good tone.

— Even when 7-footers Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks inevitably got into early foul trouble against Arizona’s talented frontcourt, Martin kept one of them in the game most of the rest of the way, showing confidence they could stay on the floor and be effective.

— To keep a big lineup on the floor, he moved sharpshooter Jordan Mathews to the sixth-man role, knowing the tough-minded junior would not be bothered by it. Mathews responded with a season-high 28 points, including six 3-pointers, against Arizona.

— After playing seldom-used Brandon Chauca as Singer’s backup vs. ASU, Martin made a bold move and went to freshman forward Jaylen Brown in that role vs. Arizona. The 6-foot-7 Brown excelled, dishing a career-best seven assists to give Singer rest and provide a different look for the Wildcats.

*****

Cal climbed to No. 38, respectively, in the RPI computer Monday morning after its weekend home sweep. The Bears (13-0) remain perfect at home.

Now they hit the road again, and we’ll begin to find out if the Bears can continue their climb up the Pac-12 ladder.

Cal’s wins over the Arizona schools followed an 0-for-2 trip to Oregon which dropped the Bears’ record outside Berkeley to 1-6. They take an 0-3 conference road record to Utah on Wednesday and Colorado on Sunday.

*****

Ivan Rabb is the only Pac-12 player among 10 midseason candidates for the Waymon Tisdale Award, given to the nation’s top freshman. The Oakland native is averaging 12.6 points and 8.4 rebounds and shooting 64.2 percent.

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Cal football: Daniel Lasco shines at Shrine Game

Former Cal running back Daniel Lasco, injured for much of last season, showed a little of what he can do Saturday by rushing for a game-high 62 yards to help the West team to a 29-9 victory in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Lasco included a 42-yard run among his six carries.

Meanwhile, defensive end Kyle Kragen had 2 1/2 sacks and 3 total tackles for Team National in its 18-17 victory over Team American at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Stub Hub Center at Carson. Bryce Treggs also played in the game, catching one pass for 15 yards and returning a kickoff for 26 yards for Team National.

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Cal basketball: Bears upset No. 12 Arizona

For most of the 11,858 fans at Haas Pavilion on Saturday, this was the kind of moment they expected to share with the Cal basketball team: A pulsating 74-73 upset victory over Pac-12 Conference favorite Arizona.

Freshman Jaylen Brown, whose free throw with 18.4 seconds left provided the margin of victory, felt exactly the same way.

“This is definitely a signature milestone check for me coming to Cal,” said Brown, a top-5 national recruit whose arrival on campus helped send expectations skyrocketing. “This is a game we expected to win, a game we wanted to win.”

With an ESPN audience and the season’s first capacity crowd watching, guard Jordan Mathews scored 20 of his season-high 28 points in the second half and Cal’s foul-plagued big men stayed on the floor to contain the 12th-ranked Wildcats’ huge, physical frontline.

Arizona (16-4, 4-3) had one last shot, but guard Gabe York briefly lost the handle on the dribble, then reversed his direction and drove right. Defended tightly by Jabari Bird, he missed a 6-foot runner with 2 seconds left.

The Bears (14-6, 4-3) celebrated with their fellow students, who rushed the floor and soaked in the victory for more than five minutes.

Cal coach Cuonzo Martin called it “a great win for our guys, for our program,” and saluted the three-decade dominance of the Wildcats. Celebrities in the crowd included Joe Kapp, Jared Goff, Missy Franklin and Bob Melvin, but also former Arizona coach Lute Olson, who built the Wildcats from nothing into a national power.

“We hope to be that one day, but it takes time,” Martin said. “Continue to chop wood.”

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Cal basketball: Can Bears avoid an epidemic of fouls while defending big and potent Arizona?

Arizona is big and experienced and accustomed to winning.

The 12th-ranked Wildcats also shoot free throws well – especially their starters – which will present quite a challenge to a Cal team that has committed 96 fouls the past four games.

The teams picked to finish 1-2 in the Pac-12 before the season began, have found the going a bit tougher since conference began. The 12th-ranked Wildcats (16-3, 4-2) sit in a three-way tie for second place. Cal (13-6, 3-3) is part of a five-way logjam for fifth.

They meet Saturday evening at Haas Pavilion (5:30 p.m./ESPN), and the Bears understand they are facing a team featuring four senior starters.

“Obviously, they’re the team to beat because they won the league last year,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “When you have that level of experience that means you’re battle tested. For us, it’s playing as hard as we can play, executing our game plan.”

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Cal football: Tony Franklin makes surprise exit

Tony Franklin, who spent the past three seasons as offensive coordinator for Cal’s football team, has resigned to take the same position at Middle Tennessee State, Cal announced Friday.

Acknowledging that people might view the step-down move with suspicion, Franklin said leaving Cal was “totally my idea.”

Franklin, 58, stressed that the decision truly was based on his desire to be closer to family. He grew up in Kentucky, and his parents, his wife’s parents and other relatives live in that area.

“I didn’t leave for Middle Tennessee. I left Cal to go home,” Franklin said. “I made a decision to go home before I got the job at Middle Tennessee. … It’s time to go be a good son, a good dad and a good granddad.”

Franklin said he first told coach Sonny Dykes about his possible plans a week ago and discussed it with him further several days ago. Franklin has served as Dykes’ offensive coordinator since 2010, starting at Louisiana Tech.

“I think he probably understood it was a good time for me to do this. He didn’t want me to leave, but he understood. He gets it,” Franklin said.

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Cal basketball: Bears hold off ASU, 75-70

The new-look Cal basketball team showed off an inside-out offense but the Bears still needed to overcome recent demons to claim a 75-70 win over Arizona State in front of an announced crowd of 9,096 at Haas Pavilion on Thursday night.

With junior Sam Singer replacing injured all-Pac-12 point guard Tyrone Wallace and freshman forward Ivan Rabb scoring a career-high 20 points, the Bears (13-6, 3-3 Pac-12) snapped a three-game losing streak and stayed unbeaten in 12 home games.

But it wasn’t easy.

ASU (11-8, 1-5) fought all the way back from a 14-point deficit with just under 13 minutes left, knotting the score at 65-all before the Bears seized control.

The Bears, who shot just 58 percent from the free throw line in road losses to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford, hit six straight – two each by Jaylen Brown, Jordan Mathews and Singer – in the final 27 seconds to ice the win.

The Sun Devils, who beat Cal by 35 points here last season, made just one field goal in the final 4½ minutes.

“It says we’re tired of losing,” Rabb said of the way the Bears played down the stretch. “We dialed it in on defense at the end – that’s how you win games.”

Singer does not provide the explosive scoring that Wallace gives the Bears, but he had eight assists to go with six points and six rebounds in 35 solid minutes. He also helped limit ASU point guard and leading scorer Tra Holder to nine points on 2-for-11 shooting.

“I felt really comfortable out there,” said Singer, who moved into the starting unit after Wallace broke his right hand in practice on Saturday. “I’ve learned a lot from guarding him in practice, learned a lot in conversations with him. He told me to keep being aggressive. I just tried to take little pieces of his game.”

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Cal basketball: ASU provides 1st test sans Ty Wallace

As Cal prepares to play the Pac-12’s last-place team on Thursday night, at least the Bears (12-6, 2-3) shouldn’t have to deal with overconfidence.

After all, they have lost their past three games this season and five in a row to Arizona State (11-7, 1-4), which returns to Haas Pavilion a year after smashing Cal 79-44. Tipoff is 6 p.m. (FoxSports1).

Then there’s the matter of the Bears playing their first game since senior point guard and returning all-Pac-12 selection Tyrone Wallace broke a bone in his right wrist in practice on Saturday.

“If you have a player like Tyrone who’s so talented and can do so many things on the court, sometimes you kind of allow him to do everything,” junior guard Jabari Bird said. “With him out, guys will definitely focus on doing more and not relying on him.

“Everybody can do this, and we understand that. It’s going to be a team effort. We have to focus on defense, share the ball on offense, and I think we’ll be all right.”

Wallace, who leads the Bears in scoring (15.4) and assists (4.6) and is their only scholarship senior, will miss four to six weeks.

Coach Cuonzo Martin says no one needs to don a cape and mask to try to compensate.

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Cal basketball: Brian Hendrick into Pac-12 Hall of Honor

Brian Hendrick, who sits ninth on Cal’s career scoring list and fourth among the school’s all-time rebounders and twice helped the Bears to the NCAA tournament, has been named as the school’s representative to the 2016 Pac-12 Hall of Honor class.

Hendrick and honorees from the other 11 schools will be recognized in a ceremony prior to the Pac-12 tournament championship game on March 12 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

A 6-foot-8 power forward, Hendrick scored 1,556 points and grabbed 898 rebounds from 1990 through 1993. He was the Bears’ leading scorer as a sophomore (17.6) and junior (16.1) and earned a spot on the all-conference first team both seasons.

After collecting Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors in 1990 when he averaged 14.9 points per game, Hendrick had 13 points and 10 rebounds in Cal’s 65-63 win over Indiana in the opening round of the NCAA tournament — the Bears’ first NCAA appearance in 30 years.

Three years later, playing alongside Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray, he averaged 10.4 points and 7.4 rebounds during the regular season, then contributed eight points and 12 rebounds to the Bears’ 82-77 win over two-time defending national champion Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Hendrick averaged 11.2 points in five NCAA tournament games for the Bears.

The Pac-12 Hall of Honor was introduced in 2002, with legendary coach Pete Newell selected as the Bears’ inaugural representative. Since then, Cal’s yearly honorees are: Kevin Johnson, Darrall Imhoff, Kidd, Andy Wolfe, Russ Critchfield, Charles Johnson, Nibs Price, Earl Robinson, Bob McKeen, Murray, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Dave Butler and Sean Lampley.

Others chosen to the 2016 Pac-12 Hall of Honor class include Stanford’s Kim Belton, Arizona’s Salim Stoudamire, Oregon’s Luke Ridnour and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas.

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Cal basketball: Tyrone Wallace out 4 to 6 weeks

A once-promising Cal basketball team that already had steered off course must navigate the next four to six weeks without all-Pac-12 point guard Tyrone Wallace, sidelined by a broken bone in his right wrist.

Picked to finish second in the Pac-12 before the season and ranked No. 14 nationally in November, the Bears will try to snap a three-game losing streak Thursday night at home against Arizona State without their leading scorer (15.4 points per game) and only scholarship senior.

Cal then faces Arizona on Saturday at Haas Pavilion in a nationally televised matchup of teams picked to finish first and second in the Pac-12. The Bears (12-6, 2-3) enter the week in a four-way tie for seventh.

Junior guard Jabari Bird said none of his teammates has lost hope.

“We’re a confident team. We’re still positive,” he said. “We’re a team for a reason. We can’t just rely on one guy. We have to come together as a team and figure this out.”

Wallace suffered the injury during a 5-on-5 drill in practice Saturday.

Junior backup Sam Singer, who played season-high totals of 27 and 29 minutes in the Bears’ two most recent games, will move into the starting role. Singer averages 4.1 points and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 2-to-1.

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