Bears Host UC Santa Barbara Tuesday
Dec. 9, 2002
After playing three of its first four games away from home, Cal returns to Berkeley this week when the Bears host UC Santa Barbara Tuesday night in Haas Pavilion.
The match-up between a pair of 2002 NCAA Tournament teams will be Cal's last game before taking a 10-day break for fall final exams. When the Bears resume action, they will host the 10th annual EA Sports Golden Bear Classic Dec. 20-21, then take another week off before meeting Kansas in the Pete Newell Challenge at the Arena in Oakland Dec. 28.
The contest against the Gauchos pits two teams that like to fire from behind the three-point arc. Led by forwards Joe Shipp (11-18) and Amit Tamir (10-20), Cal has connected on 45.3 percent of its three-point attempts, while UCSB is shooting at a 46.2 percent clip on its tries, with Nick Jones sinking 13 of his 22 shots.
The Bears - with 11 three-pointers vs. Howard Dec. 3 and another 10 treys against Georgia last Saturday - have made at least 10 threes in back-to-back games for the first time in nearly eight seasons, last accomplishing the feat vs. Stanford and UCLA in February 1995. No Cal team has ever reached double digits three games in a row.
While the Bears, paced by Shipp's 21.5 ppg, possess a variety of long-range weapons, they are searching for consistent play closer to the basket. Tamir, who has snagged 10 or more rebounds three times this season, leads the way underneath, with four other players pulling down four or more boards per outing.
On the defensive end, Cal is limiting opponents to just 40.1 percent shooting from the floor and only 31.3 percent from three-point range. In addition, junior point guard A.J. Diggs has swiped 15 steals, including a school-record-tying eight at Cleveland State Nov. 30. Diggs, who led the Bears with 47 steals last season, has more than doubled his per-game average from 1.5 spg as a reserve last year to 3.8 spg as a starter this season.
Golden Bear Notes
Georgia Edges Cal, 78-73, in Overtime
Ezra Williams scored 23 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer in overtime, to lead Georgia to a 78-73 victory over Cal last Saturday at the John R. Wooden Classic in Anaheim. The evenly matched game had nine lead changes and 12 ties, with the score 38-all at the half and 69-69 at the end of regulation, and neither team ever leading by more than eight points. Amit Tamir scored 27 points and corralled 11 rebounds to pace the Bears, while Brian Wethers chipped in with 15 points and Joe Shipp added 12.
Haas Win Streak on Line vs. Gauchos
Cal enters Tuesday night's game vs. UC Santa Barbara with a 20-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents. The Bears were a perfect 9-0 against non-Pac-10 schools last year and were 8-0 against teams outside the league in 2000-01. Since Haas Pavilion opened in the fall of 1999, Cal's only home loss to a non-Pac-10 team was a 74-71 decision to Penn in the final of the Golden Bear Classic on Dec. 29, 1999.
Shipp Jumps to 20th on Scoring Chart
Senior F Joe Shipp, who leads the Bears with 21.5 ppg, has jumped nine spots on Cal's career scoring list already this season. After entering the year in the 29th spot, he now holds the 20th position with 1,120 points, passing such notable alumni as Mark McNamara, Larry Friend, Ed Gray and Andy Wolfe. Shipp poured in 30 points in back-to-back games vs. Cleveland State and Howard, and he is shooting 52.4 percent from the floor, including 61.1 percent (11-18) from three-point range. With 26 more points, Shipp will claim 19th place on the Cal list, topping Butch Hays' 1,145 points scored from 1981-84.
Diggs Ties Kidd with 8 Steals at Cleveland State
Defense has always been a strong suit for junior point guard A.J. Diggs, and he has proven his point in Cal's four games this season. In the New Mexico opener, Diggs picked off four steals, blocked a shot for the first time in his career and took a charge under the basket. Then in the Bears' win at Cleveland State last Saturday, he tied the school record for steals in a game with eight - matching the total set by Jason Kidd against Washington on Jan. 28, 1993. Two of Diggs' thefts came in the final two minutes of regulation, while he added three more in overtime. Entering the UCSB match-up, Diggs already has 15 steals on the season, an average of 3.8 per game. Named the preseason Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year by Athlon magazine, Diggs led the Bears with 47 steals last year (1.5 per game).
Three-Point Shot Returns as Key Weapon
Last season, Cal shot a Pac-10-worst 31.4 percent from three-point range, the lowest rate at the school in three years. But in 2002-03, the Bears have regained their accuracy from behind the arc, making 45.3 percent of their attempts (34-75). With an 11-for-18 night vs. Howard (61.1%) Dec. 3 and a 11-for-22 outing against Georgia Dec. 7, Cal has sunk at least 10 threes in consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 15-23, 1995, when it accomplished the feat against Stanford (10) and UCLA (11). This year's unit is led by senior F Joe Shipp, who is 11-for-18 on three-pointers (61.1%), and sophomore F Amit Tamir, who is 10-for-20 (50.0%). In addition, freshman G Richard Midgley is 5-for-13 (38.5%) and junior F Conor Famulener is 2-for-3.
Cal Assistant Jon Wheeler Familiar with Williams, UCSB
Although Cal and UC Santa Barbara have not played each other in more than 20 seasons, Golden Bear assistant coach Jon Wheeler can provide valuable insight into the Gaucho program, especially when it comes to head coach Bob Williams. After starting his coaching career at Cal (1990-92), Wheeler moved to UC Davis, where Williams was serving as head coach. In three years together (1993-95), they guided the Aggies to a 44-40 record, including a 20-11 mark in '95 when they captured the league title and advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA Division II Tournament. Wheeler left UC Davis for Pepperdine, where he spent one season in 1996, then began a four-year tenure at UCSB. While with the Gauchos, Wheeler served two years under Jerry Pimm and then was the only coach retained by Williams when he accepted the Gauchos' top position prior to the '98-99 season.
Tamir Gives Bears Triple Threat
As Cal's most experienced frontcourt player, 6-11 sophomore Amit Tamir knows that much of the Bears' success this season depends on his performance. Now averaging 16.0 ppg and 10.5 rpg, Tamir has posted a pair of double-doubles in four games - 20 points and 12 boards at New Mexico and 27 points and 11 rebounds against Georgia. In addition, he grabbed a career-best 14 caroms vs. Howard, giving him three double-digit rebound games in four contests after not reaching 10 in any contest last season. In addition, Tamir matched his personal best with seven assists at Cleveland State, now leading the Bears with 17 assists (4.3 apg). Not only can Tamir score inside with his 6-11, 260-pound frame, but he can step outside, where he is 10-for-20 on three-pointers with a 5-for-9 display vs. Georgia.
Shipp's Shots Sail Through from Three-Point Distance
Joe Shipp entered this season as Cal's most accomplished long-range bomber. But in the Bears' first four games, his accuracy has reached a level fans have rarely seen. 'He was shooting that NBA '3.' He's made a believer out of me in the quality of play he exhibited,' said Howard head man Frankie Allen. Against Allen's Bison Dec. 3, Shipp tallied 30 points for the second consecutive game, making 5-of-7 from three-point range. Also ringing up 30 points at Cleveland State Nov. 30, he became the first Cal player to post back-to-back 30-point totals since Ed Gray reached the mark in three straight games against Oregon State, Oregon and Washington State in January 1997. With 128 career treys, Shipp ranks fifth in Cal history, needing just eight more to top No. 4 Bill Elleby, who had 135 from 1989-92.
Wethers Report: Senior Reigns on Both Ends
According to head coach Ben Braun, senior guard Brian Wethers, Cal's most athletic player, has the ability to dictate play on both ends of the court. In the New Mexico opener, for example, the 6-5 wing scored 17 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists. Wethers then raised his numbers to 18 points and eight boards at Cleveland State. Now averaging 15.0 ppg, Wethers is shooting 53.1 percent from the floor and is third on the squad in rebounding (5.3 rpg). During each of his first three seasons with the program, Wethers has increased his scoring average from 5.5 ppg as a freshman, to 8.5 ppg, to 10.3 ppg last season. In addition, he leads all current players on the roster with 158 career assists.
Braun Passes Newell for Third in Cal Coaching Victories
With Cal's 73-64 win at Cleveland State Nov. 30, head coach Ben Braun notched his 120th victory with the Bears, edging him past Hall of Famer Pete Newell for third on the school's all-time list. Braun now owns a 121-71 record in his seventh season, while Newell, who guided the Bears to the 1959 NCAA championship, was 119-44 from 1955-60. With three more wins, Braun will top Lou Campanelli (123-108) for the second spot on the Cal charts.
Bears Sport International Flair
On a campus that prides itself on diversity, the Cal basketball team sports a roster that includes players from three foreign countries. Sophomore forward Amit Tamir hails from Jerusalem, Israel, while freshman guard Richard Midgley is a native of Burgess Hill, England, and freshman forward Jordi Geli Vilardell came to Berkeley by way of Girona, Spain. By no means does this trio represent all of the overseas players who have suited up for Cal under head coach Ben Braun. Others who have needed student visas before joining the squad include Sean Marks (New Zealand, 1995-98), Shahar Gordon (1999-00, Israel), Francisco Elson (1998-99, The Netherlands) and Saulius Kuzminskas (2001, Lithuania).
Fathers and Sons Share Athletic Backgrounds
Four members of the 2002-03 Cal team can point to their fathers as men who paved their way into the athletic arena. Junior guard A.J. Diggs, for example, is the son of Shelton Diggs, who was a wide receiver at USC from 1973-76 and played for the NFL's New York Jets in 1976. Redshirt-freshman forward Erik Bond hails from a family of basketball players - his father, Jay, starred at Washington, while both of this brothers (Jason at Gonzaga and Jesse at Saint Mary's) played at the collegiate level. In addition, freshman forward David Paris is the son of former San Francisco 49er lineman Bubba Paris, and freshman guard Martin Smith is the son of the late Phil Smith, who played college basketball at San Francisco and was a two-time NBA All-Star.
Bears Notes ...
With wins at New Mexico and Cleveland State this season, Cal won at least two non-Pac-10 games on opponent home courts for the first time since 1998-99, when the Bears defeated BYU during the regular season and DePaul in the second round of the NIT ... Cal has added two walk-ons to the roster who are not in the media guide - 6-3 freshman guard Joe Abrahams from Crossroads HS in Los Angeles and 5-11 freshman guard David Brutocao-Kemp from Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd HS ... seven former Bears were on NBA opening night rosters this year: Jason Kidd (Nets), Lamond Murray (Raptors), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (Hawks), Michael Stewart (Cavaliers), Sean Marks (Heat), Sean Lampley (Heat) and Jamal Sampson (Bucks) ... senior guard Donte Smith underwent quadriceps surgery in September and is not expected to return until the Pac-10 opener vs. Stanford in January.