Jan. 2, 2002
California Golden Bears (9-1, 0-0) at Stanford Cardinal (7-2, 0-0)
Friday, Jan. 4, 7:30 p.m., Maples Pavilion, Stanford, CA
TV: Fox Sports Net
Radio: KABL (960 AM)
Stanford at California
Sunday, Jan. 6, 7 p.m., Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA
TV: KRON (Channel 4)
Radio: KABL (960 AM)
Cal opens the Pac-10 season this Friday at No. 13 Stanford, with the Cardinal making a return visit to Berkeley Sunday night, and for the first time ever, the Bears and Cardinal will play each other twice to start the conference slate.
The quirk in scheduling is due to the re-introduction of the Pac-10 Tournament this March, which forces league teams to finish conference play one week earlier than normal.
Cal enters the showdowns with a 9-1 overall record - matching their best 10-game start under head coach Ben Braun. The Bears were also 9-1 in 1998-99, a season in which they captured the National Invitation Tournament and finished with a 22-11 mark.
The key to Cal's early success has been a defense that is limiting opponents to only 60.1 ppg, a figure that ranks 20th in the country. The Bears are also holding teams to 38.9 percent shooting from the floor and 29.9 percent from three-point range. As a contrast, opponents averaged 68.6 ppg last year and shot 43.6 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from long distance.
In addition, the presence of four players who stand 6-10 or taller - Solomon Hughes, Jamal Sampson, Amit Tamir and Gabriel Hughes - has aided the Bears in blocking 55 shots, just 11 away from their total of 66 for all of last season.
Individually, junior forward Joe Shipp, the Pac-10 Player of the Week for Dec. 17, continues to pace the squad in scoring at a 14.9 ppg rate. Shipp has reached double figures in each of his last six games, including a career-high 31-point effort vs. Fresno State when he connected on a school-record nine three-pointers.
In the middle, Solomon Hughes was voted MVP of the Golden Bear Classic after scoring a career-best 19 points in the title match vs. Penn State. The senior ranks third in the nation in shooting accuracy at 69.6 percent and has made 30 of his last 39 field goal attempts (76.9%) over the past five games.