Bears Looking to Rebound This Time Around

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Imagine senior Jamal Boykin riding horseback through Haas Pavilion, traversing the streets of Berkeley at midnight, warning the Cal men's basketball team about its purple-clad pursuers.

The Huskies are coming.

"When we play Washington, I feel them coming to the offensive boards," he said. "As soon as a shot goes up, I better box out my man."

Throughout tonight's 6 p.m. game, the Bears will have to focus on keeping the Pac-10's best rebounding team away from the glass, all the while trying to box the Huskies out of first place in the conference standings.

Cal (15-8, 7-4 in the Pac-10), which split both weekends of its recent four-game road trip, holds a one-game edge over Washington (16-7, 6-5). But it won't last long if things go the way they did in the teams' first meeting.

On Jan. 16, the Huskies led by 19 points at halftime en route to a thorough 84-69 win at Bank of America Arena in Seattle. Point guard Jerome Randle was held scoreless in the first half, and finished with five points. The Bears made a season-low 16 field goals, committed a season-high 22 turnovers and missed 18 free throws in their worst loss of the regular season.

"They sure had their way with us up there," coach Mike Montgomery said.

Senior forward Quincy Pondexter was no exception. Pondexter, who is averaging 25.8 points and 10.5 boards over the last four games, posted 25 points in the blowout.

The Fresno, Calif., native is among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage, and he is a matchup nightmare for Cal because of his agility, not to mention his ability to play inside and out.

"We'll definitely focus on what it's gonna take to slow him down," Boykin said. "He's played the four in the past so he's able to post up, and he's improved a lot of his perimeter skills."

Montgomery said Tuesday that he hadn't yet decided which of his players will be assigned to Pondexter, but it's likely that Boykin, Theo Robertson and Omondi Amoke will take turns defending the Washington forward.

Montgomery was certain, however, that the Bears would work on their rebounding skills in practice this week. The Huskies lead the Pac-10 with 15 offensive boards per game.

"It's something they're taught," Boykin said. "They push you in the back going to the basket."

It will probably help Cal if guards Patrick Christopher and Jorge Gutierrez help out on the glass like they have in recent games. Christopher is averaging 5.7 rebounds per contest, while Gutierrez -- who didn't play against Washington earlier this season because of a knee injury -- grabbed a team-high eight rebounds against USC last Thursday.

The Huskies, who dropped five of their first eight conference games after claiming the Pac-10 crown last season, have won three in a row. And they haven't earned a victory away from home all season, which didn't relax Boykin at all.

"I'm expecting the best Washington team," he said.


Contact Jeff Goodman at [email protected]

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