CU men's basketball preview: Cal

MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (13-10, 3-7 Pac-12 Conference) at Cal Golden Bears (16-6, 7-3).

GAME TIME: Sunday, 2:30 p.m. MST, Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.

BROADCAST: TV — ESPNU; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 7th season (143-90, 199-156 overall); Cal — Cuonzo Martin, 3rd season (55-32, 181-114).

LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G Derrick White, Sr., 16.4 ppg; Rebounding: F Wesley Gordon, Sr., 7.3 rpg; Assists: White, 4.3 apg. Cal — Scoring: F Ivan Rabb, So., 15.5 ppg; Rebounding: Rabb, 10.9 rpg; Assists: G Charlie Moore, Fr., 3.2 apg.

NOTABLE: The Buffs have lost 10 of 11 games all-time at Cal, including a 79-65 loss last year...CU junior guard George King went scoreless in Thursday's win against Stanford. It is the first time that has happened since King emerged as a reliable scorer at the beginning of last season...Junior Tory Miller's ..651 field goal percentage in Pac-12 games would rank second if he had enough attempts to qualify among the league leaders. Miller has gone 28-for-43 in CU's 10 league games...Cal is coming off a thrilling double-overtime win at home Thursday against Utah...The Buffs return home this week to face Washington on Thursday and Washington State next Sunday.


Advertisement

BERKELEY, Calif. — Colorado head coach Tad Boyle noted that senior forward Wesley Gordon tends to play defense in accordance with the level of the competition.

If that's the case, Gordon will be under pressure to turn in a premier defensive effort Sunday when the Buffaloes take on Cal and its dominant big man, Ivan Rabb, in another pivotal Pac-12 Conference showdown.

"Overall Wes is a good defender. He's a smart defender," Boyle said. "Wes sometimes when he's not guarding somebody that is a scoring threat he can get a little lazy at times, but he's a very good defender."

Gordon and the Buffs will have their hands full with Rabb, a sophomore who surprised many by staying in school instead of bolting to the NBA following his senior season.

Rabb has diversified his game since the Buffs last saw him, adding a face-up game and stronger mid-range jumper to his arsenal. In Pac-12 games, Rabb leads the league in rebounding (12.6) and offensive rebounds per game (4.0) while also ranking in a tie for 10th in scoring at 16.3 points per game.

"He's improved on his game a lot," Gordon said. "He's got a nice little face-up game now and can shoot the ball a little better now. We've just got to take a good team defensive effort. I really like competing against good players and to match up my defensive ranking against them. I just want to limit his touches and make him make hard shots, not let him get anything easy."

While CU's defensive focus will begin with Rabb, the Buffs offense will be challenged to execute against one of the top defenses in the Pac-12. Cal ranks second overall in the league in scoring defense (63.0) and defensive field goal percentage (.395) in addition to ranking third in defensive 3-point percentage (.324).

Despite the 0-7 start in Pac-12 play — which has been answered by a modest three-game win streak by the Buffs heading into Sunday — CU actually has performed with admirable consistency on offense. Even though the Buffs' league-leading free throw and 3-point percentages are down from a year ago, CU's overall field goal percentage and scoring average through 10 games are significantly higher than their league marks a year ago.

Heading into Sunday, the Buffs own a .458 field goal percentage while scoring an average of 77.9 points through 10 league games. Last year in Pac-12 play CU shot .402 and averaged 70.6 points per game.

"We've got some very talented offensive players on this team," Boyle said. "I look at Cal and they're 7-3 (in the Pac-12). We're 3-7. The difference is defense. But offensively, yeah, we're scoring enough points. Even in our losses we've scored enough to win. I think the biggest thing for us offensively is the ball moving and not sticking."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07