California (7-6, 0-1) at Arizona (12-3, 1-1)by Javier Morales on Jan. 06, 2011, under Sports
A quick look at what to expect Thursday night at McKale Center between two Pac-10 teams coming off a loss — California and Arizona (more info to come at our partner site, WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM):
Matchups (Tipoff 8:30 p.m., Tucson time)
What’s going right: Taking over as the team’s primary point guard, after the departure of Jerome Randle, junior Jorge Gutierrez has recorded a personal-best eight assists three times this season, including last Sunday at Stanford. He has proven to be a big-game performer, posting 19 points against San Diego State on Dec. 8. He made all nine of his free-throw attempts in that game.
What’s going wrong: Inexperience is the greatest challenge for freshman starter Allen Crabbe on the perimeter. In Cal’s last three big games against San Diego State, Kansas and Stanford, Crabbe is a combined 2-of-13 from three-point range. The pending transfer of former UA recruiting target Gary Franklin makes Cal’s rotation perilously thin. Fellow freshman Brandon Smith (second on the team with 36 assists) will likely replace Franklin as a starter.
What’s going right: Kyle Fogg registered his sixth double-figure scoring game of the season with 10 points against Oregon State Sunday to go with three rebounds (one more than Derrick Williams and Jesse Perry produced individually). The 6-foot-3 junior guard might be starting to warm up a bit, as he has shot 47.6 percent (10-of-21) from the floor over his last three games.
What’s going wrong: Let this excerpt from Anthony Gimino’s blog at TucsonCitizen.com tell the story: Through two Pac-10 games, Lamont “MoMo” Jones has three assists and nine turnovers. “You can only go so far as a total team when that’s in place,” Miller said. “That’s not to discredit him at all from some of the other things that he’s done well. … He’s a great competitor and we love that about him, but for our team to reach its potential and to have a successful Pac-10 season, no question, that assist-to-turnover ratio is a big, sticking point with us right now.”
Who has the edge?: Gutierrez is playing the best among the two guard positions listed here, but Solomon Hill (who is showing the ability to drive strong to the basket) gives Arizona an advantage on the wing over the developing Crabbe. My guess is Fogg will continue to work his way out of a slump and give the Wildcats a slight edge in this category.
What’s going right: In his last two games, redshirt junior power forward Harper Kamp is shooting 12-of-16 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free throw line, averaging 17.5 points. In only his second game since his return from a knee injury last year, Kamp posted a career-best 25 points against New Mexico on Nov. 20. Senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison leads the Bears on the boards with 8.3 a game, which ranks third in the conference.
What’s going wrong: Kamp, a former teammate of UA junior Brendon Lavender at Mesa Mountain View, has posted only one double-double (double figures in points and rebounds in a game) while Sanders-Frison has three. Kamp has disappeared on the boards against Kansas and Stanford, recording only two in each game.
What’s going right: Aside from only two rebounds against the Beavers on Sunday, JC transfer Jesse Perry continues to show promising development. Last week in Oregon, he totaled four blocked shots, tripling his season output. Since joining the starting lineup three games ago, the 6-foot-7 native of St. Louis, Mo., is averaging 10.0 points and 4.7 rebounds, while shooting 64.7 percent (11-of-17) from the field. In that span, Perry notched season-high totals of 16 points (vs. Robert Morris) and eight rebounds (at Oregon).
What’s going wrong: The good news is Williams has converted 11 of his last 14 field-goal attempts; the bad news is those shots span over Arizona’s last three games. Williams, who is seeing more double- and triple-team defenses, is getting less touches. Miller put a positive spin on that during Tuesday’s Pac-10 teleconference with the media, saying the Wildcats came close to winning all three of those games (going 2-1 with the one-point loss at Oregon State). Ultimately, however, Arizona will need more production from Williams. The way for that to happen: Other players opening space for him by drawing that defense away from him.
Who has the edge?: With this game in Tucson and Perry and Williams hearing about their rebounding deficiencies all week from Miller and the UA staff, expected them to be charged up Thursday night. You will likely see Williams block out like he’s never blocked out before. Perry has good rebounding techniques; he just needs to apply them more and double his average of 4.3 a game. Kamp and Sanders-Frison provide a good challenge, but they are catching Williams and Perry at a time when the UA twosome is focused on making up for Sunday’s woeful performance.
What’s going right: Another former UA-Miller recruiting target — Cal freshman forward Richard Solomon — is averaging 4.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Solomon also has 11 steals and is tied for the team lead in blocks with eight. He notched three blocks and posted a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) against Hartford recently.
What’s going wrong: The Cal bench is young, with one freshman and two sophomores included among the group. Only seven current players average double-figure minutes, which means if any of them get in foul trouble, Mike Montgomery’s hands are tied.
What’s going right: Sophomore center Kyryl Natyazhko is second on the team with a 56.8 field-goal percentage, but he has taken less shots (37) by far than anybody in the 10-player rotation. The next lowest is Perry and Lavender with 60 each. Natyazhko still has yet to miss a three-pointer, although he’s only tried four. Like most reserves, if he can be involved in more situations, perhaps taking his accurate mid-range shot, it could help the Wildcats in some games.
What’s going wrong: On the flipside, Natyazhko had no points and only three rebounds in only 10 minutes at Oregon State. None of his fellow bench-mates Kevin Parrom, Jamelle Horne, Jordin Mayes and Lavender failed to score more than five points apiece against the Beavers. That puts too much pressure on Arizona’s starting lineup.
Who has the edge?: Arizona’s bench not only runs deeper, but it’s experienced with Horne and Lavender, and dangerous with Parrom and Mayes (who can have career games at any time). Solomon is an impressive talent, but he and junior guard Nigel Carter and sophomore guard Brandon Smith — the other Cal reserves playing double-figure minutes — can only do so much because of their inexperience within Montgomery’s system.
Montgomery won his 600th career game on Dec. 29, which puts him in select company with six other active coaches (including Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski among them) who broke the 600-win mark. After coaching his senior-laden team to a Pac-10 title last year, Montgomery has a difficult road this year with only eight scholarship players available. One thing is for sure: Cal’s young players will receive some valuable lessons of the game this season. Miller is on the right path toward reaching Montomery’s plateau but has a long way to go.
Cal and Montgomery already received a significant loss when Franklin announced his pending transfer. Franklin, who was wooed to Arizona by Hill (a former AAU teammate), is leaving Cal despite starting and playing significant minutes (25.7 a game). His departure leaves Montgomery in a dangerous situation if injuries or foul trouble occurs. Rather than play sheepishly, expect Cal to be a bear (I know, I know) and come out fighting at the start. But Arizona’s depth, talent level, experience and home crowd will be too much. Arizona by 18.
WildAboutAZCats.com and another partner — SteveRiveraVentures.com — have a promotion this season with Tino’s Pizza in Tucson. During any UA men’s hoops game (like tonight), order any large pizza (dine-in or carryout) get a discount of $2. Tino’s Pizza was voted as the Best Eastside Pizzeria by the Tucson Weekly last year. If you take advantage of this opportunity at Tino’s save your receipt and mail it to: TINO’S PIZZA / WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM CHALLENGE, c/o Javier Morales, P.O. Box 531418, Henderson, NV 89053 (include your full name, address and phone number). The person who spends the most during this promotion over the UA’s 18-game Pac-10 schedule wins a free Lute Olson-autographed “UA Basketball Vault” book (valued at $50)