California-Pittsburgh Preview
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  03/16/2002

March 16, 2002

GAME: No. 6 California (23-8) vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh (28-5)
REGIONAL: South, Second Round
TIME: Sunday, 2:36 p.m. EST
SITE: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh

If Brandin Knight is hurting, he's certainly not showing it.

Removing any doubts about his ability to play after injuring his right quadriceps last Saturday, Knight tries to follow up an impressive performance when Pittsburgh faces California in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

While speculation on Knight's condition swirled all week long, the Big East co-player of the year insisted that he would not be slowed when tournament time rolled around. He was right.

Knight, also playing with a sore right pinkie, had 19 points, nine assists and five steals to lead Pitt to an easy 71-54 win over 13th-seeded Central Connecticut State on Friday.

"I call him the Einstein of point guards," Pitt coach Ben Howland said. "I coached a couple of good ones - John Stockton and Brian Shaw - and he's right in their league. Great players make great plays and when we needed him to, he made great plays."

In helping Pitt secure its first NCAA tournament win since 1991, Knight hopes he has put to rest the issue of his injury, which left him crumpled on the floor during the Panthers' 74-65 loss to Connecticut in the Big East tournament championship game.

"The leg is fine," Knight said. "The answer's going to be the same. It's fine. So please, no more questions about the leg."

Knight's next task will be trying to guide the Panthers through Cal's stifling defense.

The Golden Bears advanced to the second round by topping Ivy League champion Penn 82-75 on Friday. Cal, which allowed only 66.4 points per game to its Pac-10 opponents this season, limited the usually efficient Quakers to 42 percent shooting and recorded nine steals.

"We wanted to make them work for everything," Cal forward Joe Shipp said. "In the second half, we really stepped it up after we gave them too many easy looks in the first half."

Shipp also took advantage of the looks he had against Penn, finishing with a game-high 20 points.

Cal now faces the daunting task of trying to beat Pitt in what amounts to a home game for the Panthers. The Pittsburgh campus is less than two miles from Mellon Arena.

The Bears, however, are committed to not allowing that to become a disadvantage as they try to reach the round of 16 for the first time since 1997.

"We're a lot more focused, a lot more prepared and a lot more hungry," said Cal guard Brian Wethers, referring to the Bears' first-round loss to Fresno State in 2001. "Last year, we were excited to be in. But this year, we really wanted to get a win in this tournament and make a run."

Cal has won the only two matchups with Pitt, but the teams haven't met since the 1950-51 season.

PROBABLE STARTERS: California - F Shipp (14.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg), F Jamal Sampson (6.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg), C Solomon Hughes (7.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg), G Shantay Legans (7.8 ppg, 3.8 apg), G Wethers (10.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg). Pittsburgh - F Donates Zavackas (11.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), F Ontario Lett (8.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg), C Toree Morris (4.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg), G Knight (15.6 ppg, 7.2 apg, 4.8 rpg), G Julius Page (11.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: California - At-large bid, Pac-10 Conference, defeated Pennsylvania 82-75, first round. Pittsburgh - At-large bid, Big East Conference, defeated Central Connecticut State 71-54, first round.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: California - 27-15, 16 years. Pittsburgh - 9-14, 14 years.