Dec. 3, 2001
Saint Louis Billikens (2-3, vs. Missouri Dec. 3) at California Golden Bears (4-1)
Thursday, Dec. 6, 7 p.m., Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA
TV: KRON (Channel 4)
Cal looks to rebound from its first loss of the season when the Bears host Saint Louis at 7 p.m. Thursday at Haas Pavilion. Cal is 4-0 at home this year and has won its last 14 games against non-conference opponents in Berkeley.
The Bears, though, are coming off a 79-59 defeat at South Florida last Saturday - their worst setback to a team outside the Pac-10 since falling 88-66 on Nov. 29, 2000 to the Billikens in St. Louis.
Cal entered the USF contest ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, allowing only 51.3 ppg through the first four games of the year. But the Bulls scored their 51st point less than three minutes into the second half. Still, Cal ranks 13th in the nation with a defensive yield of 57.2 ppg and has held three opponents to 60 or fewer points.
Despite the loss to South Florida, the Bears have tied their best five-game start under head coach Ben Braun. And if Cal can upend Saint Louis, the Bears would be 5-1 for the first time since 1998-99, a season in which they proceeded to finish 22-11 and win the NIT.
Individually, Cal has received balanced support throughout the lineup with seven different players averaging at least 7.0 ppg. Senior guard Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who has come off the bench in each contest, leads the attack with 10.8 ppg. He has reached double figures four times in five outings, including a season-high 14 points and six rebounds at South Florida. Forehan-Kelly is also shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three-point range.
Another reserve - senior guard Dennis Gates - has also provided a spark off the bench. Not only is he averaging a career-best 8.4 ppg, but he has a team-high 12 steals and is tied for the team lead with 13 assists.
On the inside, 6-11 senior Solomon Hughes and 6-11 freshman Jamal Sampson have combined to average 15.6 ppg and 12.6 rpg. In addition, they have swatted away 22 shots between them. Sampson has 13 of the blocks and, projected over a 29-game regular season, he would set a school record with 75 blocks - far higher than the mark of 59 set by Michael Stewart during his freshman year in 1993-94.