Cal Opens Pac-10 Action at USC Thursday

Dec. 27, 2005

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California Golden Bears (6-3, 0-0) at USC Trojans (9-2, 0-0)
Thursday, Dec. 29, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: KYCY (1550 AM)
TV: Comcast SportsNet

California at UCLA Bruins (10-1, 0-0, vs. Stanford 12/29)
Saturday, Dec. 31, 1 p.m., Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: KYCY (1550 AM)
TV: FSN Bay Area

A Quick Look at the Golden Bears
California begins Pac-10 action on the road this week against a pair of teams that boast impressive winning streaks. Thursday's opponent, USC, is on a nine-game ride after losing its opening two contests of the year, while the Bears visit an 11th-ranked UCLA squad Saturday that has claimed seven in a row.

When Cal faces USC at the Staples Center Thursday, the Bears will be playing for just the second time in 18 days, and they are in the midst of a 30-day stretch that keeps them out of Haas Pavilion. Since beating San Diego State Dec. 6, Cal will compete away from Newell Court until it hosts Oregon Jan. 5.

The Bears are a perfect 6-0 in Berkeley this year, but have yet to claim a victory on the road. With Leon Powe (foot), Rod Benson (heel) and Martin Smith (pelvis) all nursing stress fractures, Cal dropped its opener at Eastern Michigan No. 18. And in their past two outings, the Bears couldn't hold onto halftime leads vs. Kansas or DePaul.

Powe, who missed all of last year due to left knee surgery and the first four games of this season with his foot injury, leads Cal in both scoring (20.8 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 rpg). The 6-8 sophomore has three double-doubles over his five games back and is shooting 56.5 percent from the floor.

Sophomore C DeVon Hardin is proving to be one of the most improved players in the league, now averaging 12.1 ppg and 7.4 rpg. Voted Pac-10 Player of the Week following his MVP performance in the Golden Bear Classic last month, Hardin ranks among the league's top five in shooting percentage (2nd, 58.7%), rebounding (4th, 7.4 rpg), offensive rebounds (1st, 3.67 rpg) and blocks (5th, 1.56 bpg).

On the perimeter, all three starting guards are pouring in double figures, led by Ayinde Ubaka's 14.0 ppg. The junior point guard matched his career high with four three-pointers en route to 16 points vs. DePaul Dec. 21.

Senior G Richard Midgley stands in 33rd place in Cal history with 1,013 career points, while sophomore G Omar Wilkes is a 50 percent field goal shooter overall and has drained 8-of-14 three-point attempts (57.1%).

Cal Coach Ben Braun
Ben Braun (Wisconsin '75), the second-winningest coach in Cal history, is in his 10th year in Berkeley and 29th season as a collegiate head coach. His record at Cal stands at 172-112, while his career mark - which includes 11 years at Eastern Michigan and eight seasons at Siena Heights College - is 505-347. The 1997 Pac-10 Coach of the Year and one of 25 finalists for the 2003 Naismith National Coach of the Year award, Braun has led the Bears to the postseason six times in his first nine years. After taking Cal to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1997, he guided the Bears to the NIT championship in 1999 and to the NIT quarterfinals in 2000. He also directed Cal to consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 2001, '02 and '03. At EMU from 1985-96, the three-time MAC Coach of the Year guided the Eagles to three NCAA Tournaments and one NIT appearance with an overall record of 185-132. He was also 148-103 from 1977-85 at Siena Heights. A native of Chicago, Braun earned a teaching degree in English with a minor in African-American studies at Wisconsin in 1975. He received his master's degree in guidance and counseling from Siena Heights.

USC Scouting Report

A Look at USC
Since opening the season with a pair of losses, USC has won nine consecutive games, including a 74-59 upset over North Carolina Dec. 21. Led by Nick Young's 16.2 ppg and Gabe Pruitt's 15.2 ppg, the Trojans are on their longest run since also taking nine in a row during the 2001-02 season. USC is limiting opponents to just 37.5 percent shooting from the floor and to only 59.4 ppg - ranking second in the Pac-10 in both categories.

Cal-USC Series History
Cal owns a 121-113 series record vs. USC. The Bears took five straight from 2002-04, while the Trojans have claimed the past three games, including 83-66 and 89-70 decisions last year. Cal won five of six games in LA from 1998-2003. In the only previous meeting in the Staples Center, USC prevailed, 79-62, in the second round of the 2003 Pac-10 Tournament.

USC Head Coach Tim Floyd
Tim Floyd is in his first season at USC, but has more than 17 years experience as a head coach. He served as head coach at Idaho, New Orleans and Iowa State before NBA head coaching stints with the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets. Floyd own's a 252-132 career collegiate record, earning five NCAA Tournament berths.

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UCLA Scouting Report

A Look at UCLA
UCLA, which hosts Stanford Thursday before facing Cal, is off to a 10-1 start, with the only setback being an 88-80 decision to Memphis in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT. The Bruins are shooting 50.0 percent from the floor as a team and are outrebounding foes by a +5.9 margin. Arron Afflalo ranks second in the Pac-10 in scoring (18.2 ppg), while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is second in rebounding (8.9 rpg).

Cal-UCLA Series History
UCLA holds a 121-93 series margin, and the teams have split their seasonal match-ups each of the past seven years. In 2004-05, the Bears won, 64-51, at Pauley Pavilion, while the Bruins captured a 77-62 victory in Berkeley.

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland
Ben Howland is in his third season at UCLA (39-29) and 12th season as a collegiate head coach (207-128). Combined with his success at Northern Arizona and Pittsburgh, the 2002 National Coach of the Year (at Pitt) is one of 28 coaches to lead three different teams to the NCAA Tournament.

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Golden Bear Notes

DePaul Tops Cal, 68-65, in Pete Newell Challenge
Draelon Burns scored four points in the final 2:35, and DePaul hung on for a 68-65 victory over Cal in the Pete Newell Challenge Dec. 21 at the Oakland Arena. The Bears built a 61-54 lead with 7:10 remaining in the game, but were outscored, 14-4, the rest of the way. Cal trailed, 67-65, when Leon Powe was fouled with three seconds left. However, he missed his first free throw attempt, and an intentional miss on the second try did not hit the rim. Ayinde Ubaka scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, going 3-for-3 from behind the arc during the period.

Bears on Road for New Year's for Second Straight Season
For the second time in as many seasons, Cal will open Pac-10 play with a road trip and will compete on New Year's Eve. Last year, the Bears rallied from a 16-point deficit to take a brief lead at Washington, but fell, 81-67, on Dec. 31 in Seattle. This season, Cal faces UCLA on New Year's Eve at 1 p.m. Prior to these past two games, the last time the Bears played on Dec. 31 was in 1941 when Cal fell to Loyola (Ill.), 35-31.

Cal Seeks Road Success in Pac-10 Opener
Although Ben Braun is the first Cal coach since Pete Newell (1955-60, 62-26) to post a winning conference record, his Bears are just 2-7 in Pac-10 openers. Cal is 86-71 in all other league games under Braun. The opening victories came in 2003 vs. Stanford (72-59) and 2004 against Washington (76-62). When beginning league action on the road, Cal has not come out on the winning side since beating Stanford, 87-78, on Jan. 2, 1982.

Bears Find Success Behind the Arc
After ranking last in the Pac-10 in three-point shooting the last two years, Cal is finding its range behind the arc this season. Entering this week's games at USC and UCLA, the Bears are sinking 38.1 percent (59-for-155) of their long-range attempts. Cal shot at least 33 percent from three-point range in each of its first seven games, with a high of 55.6 percent (10-for-18) vs. San Diego State. Senior G Richard Midgley is 18-for-44 overall (40.8%), while junior G Ayinde Ubaka, who entered the year with a career 27.6 three-point percentage rate, is 22-for-54 (40.7%). In addition, sophomore G Omar Wilkes has drained 8-of-14 from long distance. The last Cal squad to shoot better than 38 percent from three-point range was the 1989-90 team that made a school-record 38.7 percent of its attempts.

Cal Three-Point Shooting Last Three Seasons2005-06    59-155   38.1%   6.56 three-pointers per game2004-05   110-344   32.0%   3.79 three-pointers per game2003-04   127-410   31.0%   4.54 three-pointers per game

Powe-tent Force Back for Bears
Leon Powe, on the sidelines for more than a year and a half due to both left knee surgery and a stress fracture in his right foot, has returned to action seemingly without missing a beat. In his first five games on the court this season, the 6-8, 240-pound forward has averaged 20.8 ppg and 9.4 rpg while shooting 56.5 percent from the floor. He tied a career high with 27 points (11-18 FG, 5-9 FT) and snared a game-best 10 rebounds vs. San Jose State Nov. 30, then chipped in 26 points and 10 more rebounds against Akron Dec. 3 to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week honors (announced Dec. 5). Powe also had 22 points and eight rebounds vs. San Diego State, and 16 points, 11 rebounds and four steals vs. Kansas. He now has 17 career double-doubles and has led Cal in rebounding in 29 of the 32 games he has played, including four of five this year. Powe first underwent a pair of surgeries on his left knee in 2004 that kept him out all of the '04-05 campaign. Cleared to play last May, he earned MVP honors at the San Francisco Pro-Am and averaged 23.6 ppg and 10.4 rpg during Cal's trip to Italy over the summer. But just before the Bears' exhibition game vs. Humboldt State Nov. 14, Powe was diagnosed with a minor stress fracture in his right mid-foot, putting a hold on his return until the San Jose State contest.

Ubaka Already Surpasses 2004-05 Point Total
Although the Bears are just nine games into the season, junior G Ayinde Ubaka has already surpassed his point total for all of last year (126 to 110 points). Now Cal's second-leading scorer at 14.0 ppg, he has reached double figures eight times after doing so on just eight occasions over his first two years in the program and only twice last season. Ubaka set a career high with 17 points in the opener at Eastern Michigan, then topped the total with 21 points in the Golden Bear Classic final vs. Northeastern to earn all-tournament team honors. In addition, he is shooting 40.7 percent from three-point range, up from just 29.7 percent last year, and leads the Bears with 36 assists. He rates in the Top 15 in the Pac-10 in scoring (14th), assists (T6th), three-point shooting (10th) and assist-turnover ratio (3rd, 1.89).

Comparing Ayinde Ubaka's Last Two Seasons2004-05   34.2 FG%   29.7 3P%   2.0 rpg   2.7 apg   6.1 ppg2005-06   43.6 FG%   40.7 3P%   3.2 rpg   4.0 apg   14.0 ppg

Bears Winning Turnover Battle
Football coaches regularly emphasize winning the turnover battle as a key to success on the gridiron. And the margin can be just as important in basketball. So far this year, Cal has been on the positive end of the turnover margin in eight of nine games and owns a season average of +4.56. Overall, the Bears have forced 149 turnovers, while committing just 118 themselves. Cal's 13.1 turnovers per games is second in the Pac-10 to Stanford's 12.9, and the Bears have had more than 15 turnovers only once (17 vs. Kansas).

Richard Midgley Moving Up Career Lists
Senior G Richard Midgley is moving up a pair of Cal career lists this season - points and three-pointers. He enters this week's games with 1,013 points, which puts him in 33rd place, and he needs 13 more to pass Charlie Johnson for the 32nd spot. With 56 more points, Midgley will jump all the way to the 25th position. On the three-point chart, he could move into second place all-time this week. Midgley has drained 152 treys, good for fourth place, and is just behind No. 3 Randy Duck (153) and No. 2 Joe Shipp (157).

Cal Career Scoring Leaders29. Bill Hagler       1949-51   1,04230. Mark McNamara     1981-82   1,04131. Monty Buckley     1992-95   1,03532. Charlie Johnson   1969-71   1,02533. Richard Midgley   2003-     1,013

Cal Career Three-Pointers Made1. Ryan Drew 1988-91 2142. Joe Shipp 2000-03 1573. Randy Duck 1994-97 1534. Richard Midgley 2003- 152

Bears Take Advantage of Free Throw Opportunities
Not only is Cal forcing its way to the free throw line more than its opponents, but the Bears are taking advantage once they reach the charity stripe. To date, Cal has attempted 207 free throws to its opponents' 108 and is outscoring them, 146-77, or by an average of 7.7 ppg. In addition, the Bears are shooting 70.5 percent from the line, far higher than their 62.7 percent success rate last year or 62.8 percent rate in 2003-04. The last time Cal shot as high as 70 percent for an entire season was in 1995-96 (70.1%). Individually, five players are making more than 77 percent of their tries, led by Martin Smith (8-9, 88.9%) and Richard Midgley (18-21, 85.7%). DeVon Hardin, who leads the Bears with 53 attempts, is shooting 66.0 percent from the line, up from 38.6 percent last year.

Cal Scoring Up Significantly from Last Season
By scoring more than 80 points in five of nine games this year, Cal has produced a season scoring rate of 75.7 ppg, second in the Pac-10 and a more than 8-ppg jump from the 67.4 ppg the Bears averaged last season. Cal has not averaged 75 ppg or more for a full campaign since 1996-97, while only one team in school history has poured in more than 80 ppg (83.9 ppg, 1970-71). This year's Bears reached a high of 89 points vs. Akron and also tallied 88 points against Long Beach State.

DeVon Provides Defense in the Middle
One of the most improved players in the Pac-10, sophomore C DeVon Hardin has taken advantage of his opportunity to start for the Bears this season. When Leon Powe began the year on the sidelines (foot stress fracture), Hardin produced three double-doubles and was voted MVP of the Golden Bear Classic after totaling 23 points and 14 rebounds in the title game vs. Northeastern. He was also named Pac-10 Player of the Week for his Golden Bear Classic performance. Now, the 6-11, 235-pounder ranks among the Pac-10 leaders in four categories - shooting percentage (2nd, 58.7%), rebounding (4th, 7.4 rpg), offensive rebounds (1st, 3.67 rpg) and blocks (5th, 1.56 bpg). Hardin's 14 total blocks are two-third's of Cal's entire amount for the year. On the scoring front, he is pouring in 12.1 ppg, having reached double figures five times.

Stressful Start to the Season for Bears
California entered the 2005-06 season with three key contributors on the sidelines - all due to stress fractures. Senior C Rod Benson, who paced the Bears in both scoring (13.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg) last year, missed four games with a stress fracture in his heel. After sitting out the Eastern Michigan opener, he re-aggravated it vs. Northern Colorado and didn't return until the Dec. 6 game vs. San Diego State. Senior G Martin Smith, meanwhile, was kept out of Cal's first two games with a stress fracture in his pelvis. Finally, sophomore F Leon Powe missed the Bears first four games due to a minor stress fracture in his right foot discovered the week of the opener.

Injury Woes Have Kept 6 Players Out at Least Once This Year
Through the first four weeks of the 2005-06 season, six players missed a total of 19 games for the Bears. Cal dressed just 10 players five times and 11 once in its first six contests. The Bears didn't suit up everyone on the roster until the Dec. 21 DePaul game. Below is a list of the players, their injuries and their games missed:

Name              Injury   Games MissedRod Benson        stress fracture, heel         E. Michigan, Northeastern, San Jose St., AkronRichard Midgley   stinger, right shoulder       Long Beach St.Steve Panawek     bulging disk, back            N. Colorado, Northeastern, San Jose St., AkronLeon Powe         stress fracture, right foot   E. Michigan, Long Beach St., N. Colorado, NortheasternMartin Smith      stress fracture, pelvis       E. Michigan, Long Beach St.Jordan Wilkes     sprained right ankle          San Jose St., Akron, San Diego St., Kansas

Nikola Knezevic Joins Bears Mid-Season
Nikola Knezevic (NEE-koh-lah k-NEH-zhuh-vich), a 6-2, 190-pound freshman point guard from Belgrade, Serbia-Montenegro, has enrolled for the spring semester and became eligible for the Bears Dec. 21 - one day after fall final exams. He was rated the No. 3 point guard and No. 17 overall player at last summer's adidas Superstar Camp. He also played as a member of the Serbia-Montenegro Junior National team at the Under 18 European Championships in 2004. As a member of his Beovuk '72 club team, Knezevic helped the squad to a pair of Serbian titles and two Serbia-Montenegro championships.

Oh Brother! Another Pair of Siblings Plays for Bears
For the third time in Ben Braun's tenure as head coach, a pair of brothers will suit up in Cal uniforms together. This season, the tandem is sophomore guard Omar Wilkes and freshman center Jordan Wilkes. The first set of siblings to play on the same team was the Hughes brothers - centers Solomon and Gabriel. Solomon played for the Bears from 1999-02, while Gabriel was a part of teams from 2001-04. Lastly, Ryan and Tashaan Forehan-Kelly teamed up during the 2002 season. Ryan, a 6-5 wing, lettered for four years from 1999-02, and Tashaan walked on for the 2002 and '03 campaigns.

Like Father, Like Son with Smith, Wilkes Brothers
In 1975, the Golden State Warriors captured the NBA title with a couple of rookies playing key roles during their championship run - guard Phil Smith (7.7 ppg) and forward Jamaal Wilkes (14.2 ppg). Thirty years later, the sons of Smith and Wilkes are members of the California basketball team. Senior guard Martin Smith is a fourth-year walk-on who was rewarded with a scholarship for the 2005-06 campaign. Last year, he started 16 Pac-10 games and ranked fifth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.95:1). Omar and Jordan Wilkes join the squad as active members of the Bears this year. Omar, a 6-4 guard, sat out last season after transferring from Kansas and in his first action in a Cal uniform, poured in 17.8 ppg during Cal's trip to Italy over the summer. Jordan is a 6-11 center who averaged 20 ppg and 10 rpg en route to league MVP honors last year at Loyola HS in Los Angeles.

Rod Benson Finds Success on Two Courts
Last season, F/C Rod Benson may have been the most improved player in the Pac-10. After averaging 2.6 ppg and 1.7 rpg as a sophomore in 2003-04, Benson raised his rates to a team-best 13.3 ppg and 6.3 rpg last year. He ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in rebounding and seventh in the league in field goal shooting (54.3%). But the 6-10 post hasn't limited his exploits to the basketball court as a college student. For the last two springs, Benson has competed as a member of Cal's men's club volleyball team, even helping the Bears to a national No. 1 club ranking in 2005. As a prep at Torrey Pines HS outside San Diego, Benson earned first-team all-league honors and receive recruiting interest in both sports.

Where to Watch Cal Games on Comcast SportsNet
Six Cal basketball games this season, including three Pac-10 contests - at USC, at Arizona State and at Oregon - will be shown throughout Northern California on Comcast SportsNet. The channel is broadcast in the San Francisco Bay Area on Channel 400 (Comcast digital subscribers), Channel 656 (DirecTV) and Channel 409 (Dish Network). It is on standard cable in most other Northern California areas. For a complete Comcast SportsNet directory, call your local cable provider or visit

Golden Bear Notes ...
Leon Powe has been listed a preseason first-team All-Pac-10 performer by Lindy's, CBS Sportsline College Basketball and The Sporting News ... Powe is also listed as a preseason candidate for both the Wooden All-America team and the Naismith Trophy ... head coach Ben Braun picked up his 500th career victory with an 88-69 win over Long Beach State Nov. 21 ... when Cal won six consecutive games from Nov. 21 through Dec. 6, the run was the best for the team since an eight-game spurt from Dec. 30, 2002 to Jan. 25, 2003 ... Ivan Kovacevic, a 6-6 freshman guard from Laguna Beach HS (Laguna Beach, Calif.), has joined the team as a walk-on this year ... junior G/F Marquise Kately, who withdrew from school in October for personal reasons, plans to re-enroll for the spring semester in January ... with this season's win, Cal has captured nine of 13 Golden Bear Classics, including 8-of-10 under head coach Ben Braun ... sophomore C DeVon Hardin was voted MVP of the Golden Bear Classic, with senior G Richard Midgley and junior G Ayinde Ubaka joining him on the all-tournament team.

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