The Cal and Saint Mary’s College basketball teams, having largely gorged on home cooking for the first two months of the season, will test the theory this week that defense travels.
The Golden Bears, whose 11-0 record at Haas Pavilion has fueled a 12-3 mark and 2-0 start to the Pac-12 schedule, visits Oregon on Wednesday, then Oregon State on Saturday. The Ducks and Beavers, a combined 17-1 at home, won’t be accommodating.
The Gaels, 13-1 overall and 4-0 in the West Coast Conference, are about to leave the Bay Area for the first time since March. Twelve of their victories have come at McKeon Pavilion to go with a win at Santa Clara and a four-point defeat at Cal. Saint Mary’s should be road-tested Thursday at Loyola Marymount and Saturday at Pepperdine.
No. 25 UCLA traveled last weekend for games against Washington and Washington State teams expected to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12, and lost twice. WCC power Gonzaga won at Santa Clara by two points and needed overtime to escape USF with a victory.
Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said it’s “100 percent” accurate that a good defense is the best company to keep on the road.
“No matter how good a shooting team you are, and we’re pretty good, on the road your margin for error is less and you better cushion yourself with your defense,” he said.
Cal guard Jordan Mathews expects a challenge in Oregon, but added, “We do what we do — move the ball, lock down on defense, just play hard.”
The Bears haven’t allowed any of their past five opponents to score more than 63 points, and they rank No. 8 in the NCAA in field-goal percentage defense at 36.9 percent. Cal is No. 30 nationally in defensive efficiency, according to statistician Ken Pomeroy.