Bears Host UC Irvine, Visit Colorado
Dec. 1, 2003
UC Irvine Anteaters (2-2) at California Golden Bears (1-2)
Wednesday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m., Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA
Radio: KFRC (610 AM)
California at Colorado Buffaloes (2-1, vs. Oregon State 12/1)
Saturday, Dec. 6, 7 p.m. MT/6 p.m. PT, Coors Events Center, Boulder, CO
Radio: KFRC (610 AM)
A Quick Look at the Golden Bears
Following a heart-breaking 59-57 defeat at UNLV last Saturday, when the Bears nearly overcame a 20-point second-half deficit, California returns to the court this week to host UC Irvine Wednesday and visit Colorado Saturday.
The young Bears, who start three freshmen and a sophomore, have been tested in every outing so far with all three of their contests having been decided by either one or two points. Cal Poly took the opener on a tip-in with 4.8 seconds left, while C Amit Tamir's follow-up with 5.8 seconds remaining provided the winning points against BYU.
Then against UNLV, the Bears spotted the Runnin' Rebels a 51-31 lead with 14:00 left before rallying. Cal knocked its deficit to 58-57 with under two minutes to go, but couldn't get any of its three shots to fall on its final possession.
Cal's freshman class, which includes starters F Leon Powe, F Marquise Kately and G Ayinde Ubaka, plus reserve F Dominic McGuire, has combined to score 56.0 percent of the Bears offensive output this year. Powe has paced Cal in rebounding in every game, and Ubaka has led the team in assists all three times.
In fact, Powe has recorded three consecutive double-doubles to start his career, with a high of 18 points vs. BYU and 11 points against both BYU and UNLV.
Tamir and sophomore G Richard Midgley - two of Cal's returning starters - are still waiting to get on track. Tamir, who sank a team-best 61 three-pointers last season, is just 1-for-14 from behind the arc this year, while Midgley is only 6-for-22 from the field (27.3 percent) so far.
Coming off the bench, senior G A.J. Diggs has moved into Cal's all-time Top 10 in steals, and he could reach the Top 5 this week. With eight this season to give him 128 for his career, Diggs needs just five more steals to tie Gene Ransom (1976-78) for fifth all-time with 133 steals. Diggs had a season-high four steals at UNLV and was the catalyst in starting Cal's comeback bid. He had two points, three steals and an assist during the 16-0 run.
UNLV Holds Off Furious Cal Comeback, 59-57
Cal nearly came back from a 20-point deficit, but UNLV held on in the closing seconds for a 59-57 victory last Saturday in Las Vegas. The Runnin' Rebels, who led 37-29 at the half, jumped out to a 51-31 advantage with 14:00 to go. However, the Bears went on a 16-0 run, capped by an Amit Tamir three-pointer with 7:31 remaining. And when Marquise Kately scored on a layup with 1:55 left, Cal was down just, 58-57. UNLV's Louis Amundson then made one free throw with 46 seconds on the clock to put his team up by two. The Bears had three shots in their final possession, but couldn't get one to fall. Leon Powe led Cal with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Tamir finished with 11 points.
Freshman Class Makes Immediate Impact on Lineup
Cal's recruiting class, which was ranked among the Top 10 in the country by several recruiting services, has made its presence felt early this season. After starting just one rookie - F Leon Powe - in the Cal Poly opener, head coach Ben Braun inserted fellow newcomers G Ayinde Ubaka and F Marquise Kately into the opening lineup vs. BYU. So far, the freshman group, which also includes F Dominic McGuire, has combined to score 93 of the Bears' 166 total points (56.0 percent). The BYU game marked the first time that Braun started at least three newcomers since the 1999-2000 season when he started three, and sometimes four, first-year players. That class featured Joe Shipp, Brian Wethers, Donte Smith, Shantay Legans and Nick Vander Laan and finished 18-15 while reaching the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Leon Powe Living Up to His Nickname - 'The Show'
On his way to earning McDonald's All-America honors at Oakland Tech High School, F Leon Powe was deemed 'The Show' for his exploits on the court. And since arriving at Cal this fall, the freshman has lived up to that moniker. In the Cal Poly opener, Powe became the first Golden Bear freshman to record a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) in his deput effort since Jason Kidd had 11 points and 10 assists vs. Sacramento State in 1992. And after adding 18 points and 11 rebounds vs. BYU and 14 points and 11 boards at UNLV, Powe became the first Cal player to have three straight double-doubles since Nick Vander Laan in 1999-2000. No Golden Bear has averaged a double-double for an entire season since Brian Hendrick in 1991-92 (16.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg). Hendrick was also the last Bear to record four straight points-rebounds double-doubles (Nov. 25 through Dec. 3, 1991).
Close Games Not the Norm in Early Season Contests
With consecutive one-point games to open the year - a 63-62 loss to Cal Poly and a 47-46 win over BYU - Cal had its first two contests decided by one point for the first time in school history. In fact, since the Golden Bears began playing basketball in 1907-08, only two other season-openers had a one-point margin - a 26-25 loss to Oregon State in 1930-31 and an 82-81 double overtime win over Houston on Dec. 2, 1971.
A.J. Diggs Poised to Move into Top 5 on Career Steals List
With 128 steals entering this week's games, senior G A.J. Diggs needs just five more to jump from 10th place into a tie for fifth on Cal's career list. The 5-10 former walk-on, who received a scholarship before the start of his junior campaign, owns a team-best eight steals this season, including a high of four thefts at UNLV last Saturday night. Diggs also led the Bears in steals as both a sophomore (47 in 2001-02) and junior (57 in 2002-03). In addition, he tied Jason Kidd's Cal single-game record with eight steals at Cleveland State on Nov. 30, 2002, and he set a school NCAA Tournament mark with six steals against North Carolina State in a first-round game last March.
While Offense Struggles, Defense Keeping Cal in Games
Through three games, the Bears are shooting just 36.5 percent from the floor and averaging 55.3 ppg. Yet, despite the offensive struggles, Cal's defense has been holding its own. The Bears are surrendering only 56.0 ppg, while they are outrebounding opponents by a 37.0-31.3 margin, have swiped 31 steals (10.3 spg) and forced 58 turnovers (19.3 topg). Cal limited BYU, which has averaged 86.0 ppg in its two wins this season, to 46 points in a 47-46 victory Nov. 26. Cal also allowed UNLV to score only 22 points in the second half last Saturday night.
Ayinde Ubaka Handling the Ball at the Point
Freshman Ayinde Ubaka, who has started Cal's last two games at point guard, has handled his responsibilities well in his rookie campaign. The 6-2 Oakland product has paced the Bears in assists in all three contests, with a high of five assists at UNLV. Perhaps more importantly, Ubaka has committed just three turnovers all season for an impressive 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.