Bears Open Pac-10 Play vs. Stanford

Jan. 2, 2003

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Stanford Cardinal (9-3) at California Golden Bears (7-2)
Saturday, Jan. 4, 7 p.m., Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA
TV: KRON (Channel 4)
Radio: KFRC (610 AM)

A Quick Look at the Golden Bears
California opens Pac-10 play Saturday night when the Golden Bears host Stanford at 7 p.m. in Haas Pavilion. With less than 200 tickets remaining, the contest should be Cal's first sellout of the season.

So far, the Bears are a perfect 5-0 at home this year and are 36-4 on Pete Newell Court the past three seasons - the best home mark of any team in the league during that span.

Included in the run was a 68-54 victory over Stanford last Jan. 6 - a win that snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Cardinal. Now, Cal is looking for its first back-to-back wins over its Bay Area rival since the 1996 and '97 seasons.

This year's unit - which features just five of the 10 players who saw action in last season's contest - is led by the trio of senior F Joe Shipp, sophomore F Amit Tamir and senior G Brian Wethers.

Shipp, who racked up 30 points in back-to-back games vs. Cleveland State and Howard earlier in the year, paces the Bears with 19.1 ppg. He ranks 15th on Cal's career scoring list and needs just 10 more points to pass Doug True for the 14th position.

Tamir has been Cal's hottest player of late. Since shooting just 11-for-37 (29.7%) from the floor during the Bears' first three games, he has gone 37-for-72 (51.4%). In Cal's 77-70 overtime win over San Francisco Monday, Tamir scored 26 points, including a game-tying three-pointer with 3.7 seconds left in regulation.

Wethers, on the other hand, has been team's most consistent performer. He has reached double figures in every contest and was voted MVP of the EA Sports Golden Bear Classic last month.

Off the bench, the Bears have received a lift from freshman G Richard Midgley. Now shooting a team-best 56.3 percent from the floor, Midgley tallied a career-high 16 points against USF, including six points in overtime. He is also connecting on 48.0 percent of his three-pointers, a major reason Cal is sinking 40.4 percent of its long-range attempts this season - ahead of the school-record pace of 38.7 percent set in 1990.

Defensively, junior PG A.J. Diggs has swiped 25 steals, more than halfway to his team-leading total of 47 last season. Diggs had eight steals at Cleveland State and five more against UC Santa Barbara.

Golden Bear Notes

Cal Edges San Francisco, 77-70, in Overtime
Amit Tamir nailed a game-tying three-pointer with 3.7 seconds left in regulation and freshman Richard Midgley scored six of his career-high 16 points in overtime to lead Cal to a 77-70 victory over San Francisco Monday night in Haas Pavilion. USF jumped out of the gate by building a 13-1 lead before the Bears battled back to take a 32-31 lead into the locker room. Cal seemingly took control by going ahead, 49-40, early in the second half, but the Dons used a 15-2 run to go ahead, 57-53. After a bucket by John Cox put USF up, 64-61, with 12 seconds to go, Cal's A.J. Diggs drove into the late and dished to a wide-open Tamir for the tying shot. Tamir finished with 26 points, one off his season-best of 27 set against Georgia Dec. 7. In addition, Joe Shipp added 20 points and Brian Wethers 11.

Cal-Stanford in Rare Pac-10 Opener
When Cal and Stanford meet in Haas Pavilion Saturday night, they will be opening the Pac-10 season against each other for just the second time in 20 years. The Bears and Cardinal faced one another to begin league play in 1981 (Cal, 58-56) and 1982 (Cal, 87-78), but the schools had to wait until last season before starting conference action. Stanford won the 2002 match-up, 82-62 at home, but Cal came back two days later to avenge the loss with a 68-54 upset of the 12th-ranked Cardinal in Berkeley.

Overtime Kind to Bears in Recent Years
Since beating Mississippi State, 83-76, to open the 2000-01 season, Cal has won seven of its past eight overtime games, including 2-of-3 this year. The Bears' streak of six straight OT victories was snapped Dec. 7 when Georgia topped Cal, 78-73, at the John Wooden Classic. However, the Bears returned to the winning column with their 77-70 decision over San Francisco Monday. Last season, the Bears defeated both USC (92-91) and Oregon (107-103 in 2OT) in overtime, and they own an all-time record of 38-44 in extra period contests. Cal has only played four OT games in a season once, in 1971-72 when the Bears were 3-1.

Bears Look for Quick Start to Conference Season
Since Ben Braun took over the Cal program in September 1996, Cal has posted a 58-50 record in Pac-10 play, making Braun the first Golden Bear coach since Pete Newell (1954-60) to have a winning league mark. However, Cal is 0-6 in Pac-10 openers under Braun, falling to Arizona three times, Oregon twice and Stanford once. The Bears' last victory to open conference action was a 99-75 rout of 18th-ranked Arizona in 1995 at the Oakland Arena. This year, Cal has the advantage of playing its first three Pac-10 games at home. After Stanford comes to Berkeley, the Bears will host Oregon and Oregon State next week.

Braun Takes Over Second Place in Coaching Victories
With Cal's 77-61 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Dec. 21, head coach Ben Braun passed Lou Campanelli for second place on the Bears' career victories list. Earlier this season, Braun edged past Hall of Famer Pete Newell with a 73-64 OT victory at Cleveland State Nov. 30. Entering this week's match-up, Braun owns a 125-72 record in his seventh season in Berkeley. Newell, who guided the Bears to the 1959 NCAA championship, was 119-44 from 1955-60, while Campanelli was 123-108 from 1986-93.

Haas Win Streak at 24 vs. Non-Conference Foes
With its win over USF Monday night, Cal increased its Haas Pavilion winning streak over non-conference opponents to 24 games. The Bears were a perfect 5-0 against non-Pac-10 schools this year, 9-0 last season and 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.

Tamir Gives Bears Triple Threat
At 6-11, 260 pounds, sophomore F Amit Tamir looks like he should be Cal's dominant player near the basket. And in fact, he leads the Bears with 7.8 rpg, including a pair of double-doubles and a career-high 14 boards vs. Howard. But Tamir's game in not limited to the area just around the hoop. Cal's second-leading scorer at 17.0 ppg, he tops all Cal players in three-point accuracy at 46.8 percent, making 22-of-47 long-rang attempts. Tamir scorched the nets for five treys vs. Georgia and four more against Kansas. His most important triple, however, came against USF last Monday when his three-pointer with 3.7 seconds left in regulation sent the contest into overtime, a game the Bears won, 77-70. In addition, Tamir - who had 27 points vs. Georgia and 26 more against USF - ranks second to point guard A.J. Diggs in assists with 30 and his free throw rate (85.4%) in No. 1 on the squad.

Shipp Jumps to 15th on Scoring Chart
Senior F Joe Shipp, who leads the Bears with 19.1 ppg, has jumped 14 spots on Cal's career scoring list already this season, including three positions during his 17-point outing against Kansas last Saturday. After entering the year in the 29th spot, he now holds the 15th position with 1,186 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 a career-best 42.5 percent (17-40) from three-point range. With 10 more points, Shipp will claim 14th place on the Cal list, topping Doug True's 1,215 points scored from 1977-80.

Diggs Ties Kidd with 8 Steals at Cleveland State
Now given a chance to start after serving as a reserve for two seasons, junior point guard A.J. Diggs has provided notice that he is one of the best thieves in the country. With 25 steals so far, Diggs is averaging 2.8 per game, nearly double his team-leading average of 1.5 spg set last season. He has had at least four steals in a game three times this year, including five vs. UC Santa Barbara and four at New Mexico. His most impressive outing came in Cal's overtime win at Cleveland State Nov. 30 when he tied Jason Kidd's school record with eight steals, including two in the last two minutes of regulation and three more in overtime. Kidd had eight steals against Washington on Jan. 28, 1993. Named the preseason Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year by Athlon magazine, Diggs earned a scholarship during the offseason after arriving in Berkeley as a walk-on.

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 40.4 percent of their attempts (67-166). Cal has connect on at least 50 percent of its tries four times, including a best of 61.1 percent (11-18) vs. Howard. This year's unit is led by sophomore F Amit Tamir, who is 22-for-47 on three-pointers (46.8%), while freshman G Richard Midgley is 12-for-25 (48.0%) and senior F Joe Shipp is 17-for-40 (42.5%). The school team record is 38.7 percent set by the 1989-90 club.

Wethers Report: Senior Reigns on Both Ends
According to coach Ben Braun, senior guard Brian Wethers, Cal's most athletic player, has the ability to dictate play on both ends of the court. And Wethers displayed his all-around skill to its fullest at the EA Sports Golden Bear Classic in late December. In earning tournament MVP honors, Wethers averaged 16.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 4.0 apg. In addition, he helped hold Louisiana-Lafayette's high-scoring guard Brad Boyd (19.5 ppg) to just 6-for-17 shooting in the championship game. Wethers, who has tallied at least 10 points in every game this season, has twice scored 18 points - at Cleveland State and vs. UL-Lafayette. Wethers ranks second on the team in scoring (14.0 ppg) and third in both rebounding (5.1 rpg) and assists (3.2 apg). He leads all current players on the roster with 179 career assists.

Rebounding Key Factor in Cal Results
Cal, which owns a +4.6 rebounding margin this season, is a perfect 7-0 when winning the battle of the boards, but 0-2 when opponents grab more caroms. Since being out-rebounded 43-33 to Georgia, the Bears were +6 vs. UC Santa Barbara (28-22), +22 against Grambling (53-31) and +10 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (31-21). Kansas broke the string with a 29-27 edge last weekend. The margin in the Grambling game was Cal's largest since posting a +25 advantage (47-22) vs. Texas Southern on Nov. 30, 1996. Last season, the Bears were -1.6 in rebounding margin and Cal hasn't been positive for a full year since 1999-00 (+0.9).

Midgley Cool Competitor as a Freshman
Guard Richard Midgley may be just a freshman in eligibility, but the collegiate rookie has displayed a level of maturity on the court usually reserved for more veteran players. Now averaging 9.4 ppg after a career-high 16-point effort vs. USF, he is shooting 56.3 percent from the floor, including a perfect 5-for-5 outing vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, and 48.0 percent (12-for-25) from three-point range. Earlier in December, the native of England drained 5-of-6 free throws in the final 1:26 against UC Santa Barbara when the Gauchos were purposely trying to foul him due to his youth. Fourth on the team with 24 assists, Midgley has also grabbed at least six rebounds three times, with a best of seven against Grambling Dec. 20.

Shipp's Shots Sail Through from Three-Point Distance
Joe Shipp entered this season as Cal's most accomplished long-range bomber and he has only enhanced his reputation so far this year. '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 134 career treys, Shipp ranks fifth in Cal history, needing just two more to top No. 4 Bill Elleby, who had 135 from 1989-92.

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.

Bear Notes ...
Junior Conor Famulener, who sat out Cal's win over USF Dec. 30 with back spasms, is expected to be back in the lineup for Stanford Saturday ... Cal won at least seven games before the start of Pac-10 play for the fifth consecutive season ... the Bears open league action with three straight games at home for the first time since 1993 when they beat Oregon and Stanford, but lost to Oregon State ... Brian Wethers recently had his number retired at Murrieta Valley HS ... prior to its 78-73 loss to Georgia Dec. 7, the Bears had won their previous six overtime games, including a 73-64 decision at Cleveland State Nov. 30 ... 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 January.

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