Jan. 5, 2000
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Freshman guards Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arenas get introduced into the rigors of Pac-10 play Thursday as Arizona travels to Oakland to play California in the Pac-10 Conference opener for both teams.
Gardner and Arenas have helped the fifth-ranked Wildcats (11-2) to wins over Michigan State, Kentucky and Texas. Despite their youth, they are making solid contributions. Arenas is averaging 13.2 points per game and Gardner 11.4 points and 5.6 assists. Arizona's losses have come to defending NCAA tournament champion Connecticut and New Mexico.
"I know this (road trip) is going to be tough," Gardner said. "This is really our first road trip of the season, and we are going to have to play two good games. We have played in enough big games that I don't look at myself as a freshman anymore, since we have played 13 games."
California coach Ben Braun is wary of Arizona's freshman backcourt heading into this game.
"They have two outstanding backcourt players in Arenas and Gardner. They seem very confident and very comfortable and they're playing very well. I think they're playing with a lot of poise, too. I saw Jason a lot when he was in high school, and he was a player then that commands a lot of attention. Arenas was always known for his scoring. He was a prolific scorer in high school."
The Wildcats captured their Fiesta Bowl Classic for the 15th straight year and defeated Delaware in the championship game on Thursday, 89-77. Loren Woods had a career-high 23 points and added 11 rebounds and four blocked shots for Arizona, which is considered the primary challenge to Stanford for the Pac-10 title.
"Our non-conference schedule worked out very well for us," said Wildcats coach Lute Olson. "I was very concerned with it coming into the season with the amount of youth we had and how they would respond to a difficult schedule like that. I think that we accomplished what we wanted to get out of the non-conference games - tough competition that makes you get better."
Forward Richard Jefferson leads the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game, followed by Michael Wright (13.7 ppg) and Woods (13.5 ppg).
California (9-3) also has a pair of freshman guards in Donte Smith and Shantay Lagans. Smith came off the bench to score 17 points as the Bears held off Davidson on Sunday, 95-87. Joe Shipp added 16 points and Sean Lampley 14 and 12 assists for California, which made 17-of-26 shots in the second half and 57 percent (35-for-61) for the game.
Lampley is averaging a team-high 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, while Shipp is contributing 11.3 points per game. Cal is shooting 49.2 percent from the field but allowing opponents to make 38.8 percent (101-for-260) of their 3-point shots.
Arizona leads the all-time series 33-23 and the home team won each game last season. The Bears recorded an 89-76 victory last season behind 21 points from Geno Carlisle and 20 from Lampley. Jason Terry led the Wildcats with 17 points.