Husky Road Trip Awaits Cal Up North

Photo: Markhuri Sanders-Frison will be in for a challenging match-up against the Huskies' Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Washington's power forward is averaging 15.7 points per game.
Karen Ling/File
Markhuri Sanders-Frison will be in for a challenging match-up against the Huskies' Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Washington's power forward is averaging 15.7 points per game.

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After suffering perhaps the most heartbreaking loss imaginable, the Cal men's basketball team now faces its most difficult test.

There is no rest for the weary Bears, as the squad travels north for the hardest roadtrip of the season starting tonight in Seattle tonight against Washington at 6 p.m.

Despite three consecutive road losses, the Huskies (15-7, 7-4 in the Pac-10) are probably the toughest home squad in the conference. Winners of 12 straight at Hec Edmunson Pavilion, coach Lorenzo Romar's squad will be hungry for a victory after dropping three consecutive games.

"They want to play hard for those fans every night because they get great support," center Markhuri Sanders-Frison said. "It was a great atmosphere last year and we didn't come to play. They jumped on us from the start and we're going to need to jump on them early if we want to win."

Cal coach Mike Montgomery sees Washington's three-game slide not necessarily as a sign of weakness, but as a testament to the strength of the Pac-10.

"People are so amazed when anybody loses on the road in this league," Montgomery said. "When somebody is anointed the king, people don't believe that anybody can set foot in their kingdom. It's hard to win."

A notoriously fickle team on the road, the Huskies lost games to Washington State, Oregon State and Oregon and went from first place to two games removed in a matter of two weeks.

But after enduring the 92-71 beating that his team did on its own home floor, Montgomery knows the challenge that lies ahead.

"They're a team that gets a lot of confidence from their crowd," he said. "They seem to play with a lot more confidence. I know they're a lot more aggressive. They attack more offensively and they seem to get away with a little more at home. Every time there is a call it is not met with much enthusiasm."

Point guard convert Isaiah Thomas was a magician the last time he took the floor against the Bears, scoring 27 points and dishing out 13 assists. The junior has struggled shooting lately, which has led to bigger problems for the Huskies on offense. If Thomas's struggles continue, then Washington will probably rely heavily on the bruising Matthew Bryan-Amaning, a player Montgomery thinks has vastly improved during his time under Romar.

"They've got a pretty good scheme in that they surround a good big guy with shooters," said Montgomery. "He's really improved since he's been there. He's a quality post guy now and he's big and strong. He gets low and he's physical. A lot of times you're left one on one with him."

Bryan-Amaning put up a double-double when the Huskies visited Berkeley in January and was one of several players that torched Cal throughout the night. The brawny senior scored 22 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and was on the receiving end of a large chunk of Thomas' baker's dozen of assists.

Any type of strong post presence offered by Bryan-Amaning helps open up Washington's gunners, keyed by senior Justin Holiday. The brother of former UCLA standout and current Philadelphia 76er Jrue Holiday dropped in a career-high 23 points in his visit to Haas Pavilion, anchored by five 3-pointers. An astounding seven different players hit shots from beyond the arc, which highlighted one of the primary struggles of the Cal defense this season.


Gabriel Baumgaertner covers men's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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