Oregon State Travels to Cal to Face Hot-Shooting Bears

Oregon State travels to the Bay Area to play California and Stanford this week, and they'll start things off with the Golden Bears at Haas Pavilion on Thursday.

The Bears are currently 15-3 on the season, and 4-1 in Pac-10 play. They won their first four Pac-10 games against the Washington and Arizona schools before dropping the "Big Game" to Stanford 75-59 last weekend. California will be looking to start a new win-streak against the Beavers, after their nine game stretch was snapped by the Cardinal. The Bears are tied for first place in the conference, although they still haven't played UCLA or USC on this first trip around the Pac-10 schedule.  

California head coach Mike Montgomery is one of four new Pac-10 head coaches this year. OSU's Craig Robinson, Stanford's Johnny Dawkins, and Arizona's Russ Pennell are also in their first year as head coach. Although it's Mike's first year at Cal, he has a horde of Pac-10 coaching experience, including an 18 year tenure at Stanford. His 562-247 (.694) career mark makes him one of the best coaches in the college game, but, I wouldn't call him the greatest yet.

The Bears are the best three-point shooting team in all of the land at 47.3%. They're lead by sharp-shooters Theo Robertson and Jerome Randle, who we'll talk about more in just a minute. Cal is the tenth-best field goal shooting team in the country.

Interestingly enough, there are no seniors on Cal's roster. Montgomery's squad boasts seven juniors-- five of them make up the starting lineup. There are also four freshmen on the team, one of them being 7'3" Max Zhang, the tallest player in California basketball history. His first points as a Bear came on (guess...) a slam dunk, but he plays five minutes per game and has less than twenty points for the season.

Anyway, on with a profile of Cal's starters:

Seven-foot junior Jordan Wilkes is the big man in the middle. Along with Max Zhang, who I talked about above, Wilkes is part of the first 7'0" tandem of players to ever play for Cal at the same time. Wilkes is averaging just 4.4 points per game and averages 18 minutes, the lowest totals for a starter, but he does pull in just under four rebounds per game. His best in-conference performance came in a 81-71 win over Arizona State, when he scored seven points.

Six-foot-eight junior Jamal Boykin  averages 7.9 points per game, and is sixth in the conference with a 55.3 field goal percentage. He's Cal's leading rebounder, with an average of 6.2 per game. He had a career-best 22 points in the loss to Stanford, and also had 7 rebounds and 4 assists.

Six-foot-six junior guard Theo Robertson averages 12.4 points per game and leads the country in three-point field goal percentage at 58.3. He missed all of last year due to pre-season hip surgery, but he's back strong this year. He's scored in double digits in 14 of Cal's 18 games this season, and hit the game-winning free throw in that crazy three overtime win against Washington a few weeks ago.

Six-foot-six junior guard Patrick Christopher was a member of Cal's starting backcourt for much of last season, and is playing slightly less than he did a year ago. However, he is averaging 15.7 points per game this season, a number that is up from a year ago, and scored over 20 points in each of Cal's first four conference games, in which they went 4-0. 

Five-foot-ten junior guard Jerome Randle also started in Cal's backcourt last year along side Christopher. Randle is the guy who Craig Robinson has been worrying the most about from behind the three-point arc. Randle averages 18.7 points per game, and is 40 of 87 from three-point range this season. Robertson leads the team in true three-point percentage, but Randle shoots the deep ball with much more regularity. He's led the team in 12 of 18 games this season.

Off the bench, look for sophomore Harper Kamp and Jeorge Gutierrez to make an impact. They both have been averaging nearly twenty minutes per game.

Again, tipoff is Thursday at 7:30 PM. For the first time in what seems like a long time, the game won't be televised.

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)

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