California Opens Pac-10 Tourney Facing UCLA
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  03/07/2002

March 7, 2002

California is coming off a loss in its regular season finale as it opens Pac-10 tournament play against UCLA in the first round on Thursday.

The 25th-ranked Bears (21-7) are seeded third, and are taking on a sixth-seeded Bruins (19-10) squad that they beat at home 69-51 on Feb. 21.

California, which finished the regular season with a 12-6 mark in conference play, looks to regroup after a 99-53 loss at Arizona on Saturday.

Team defense has been a major factor in the Bears' second straight 20-win season, as they led the Pac-10 in scoring defense with an average of 65.8 points allowed, and field goal percentage defense at 41.1 percent.

In addition, the Bears are second in turnover margin at +4.64, and steals at 8.18 per game. Cal also has 116 blocks - the fifth-highest total in school history.

Also, the Bears have been able to rely on a balanced offensive attack for its success as they don't have a single player in the Top 10 in the conference in scoring or rebounding.

Junior forward Joe Shipp averages a team-leading 14.3 points for Cal. He has reached double figures 22 times, and needs just 39 points to become the 31st player in school history to reach 1,000 in a career.

The only other player averaging double figures is Amit Tamir, who averages 11.5 points as a reserve. However, seven players average at least 7.0 points.

The Bruins' sixth-place finish was their worst in the Pac-10, as their 65-62 loss to Oregon on Saturday kept them from grabbing a share of second.

However, UCLA is content with the sixth seed.

"We feel we got a good draw in Cal," senior guard Rico Hines said. "We are a good fit. We match up with them pretty good."

While the Bruins lead the all-time series with the Bears 119-89, recent play has been even - as the teams split the season series for the fourth straight year.

UCLA took a 64-57 win at home on Jan. 26, before falling at Haas Pavilion in the second matchup.

Dan Gadzuric averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds and made 12 of 15 shots from the floor in the two games against the Bears, while Jason Kapono averaged 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds, and Billy Knight averaged 11 points.

Overall, Kapono averages a team-high 17.5 points, while Knight is next at 14.1. Gadzuric averages 13.1 points and a team-leading 7.2 rebounds.