Bears Must Become Road Warriors To Keep Pac-10 Title Dream Alive

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The Cal men's basketball team has more than proven its worth at home.

Last weekend's sweep of the Los Angeles schools cemented the No. 21 Bears' 17-1 home record, the second-best mark in school history. Only the 1945-46 squad's 24-2 standard betters the current Cal record.

But now it's time for the Bears (20-6, 11-5 in the Pac-10) to take their show on the road, a place that certainly has not been as hospitable as Haas.

Having dropped at least one game on every road trip this season, Cal is now faced with the daunting task of taking down Arizona State and No. 14 Arizona in the final weekend of Pac-10 play.

With only two games separating the first place and sixth place teams in the conference, to say that the stakes are high would be a vast understatement. Cal is tied for second and can win the Pac-10 with a little help.

Tonight's game against ASU, which tips off at 5:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz., is the Bears' first chance to prove that their recently accrued national ranking isn't a fluke.

Although the Sun Devils (14-11, 7-9) currently sit seventh in the Pac-10, they have proven to be a dangerous team both at home and on the road. And if the Bears need any reminder of what happens when they lower their level of play, the Washington loss looms large as an unfriendly reminder.

"(ASU's) always been a tough team and they've been a tough team this year," Cal coach Ben Braun said. "They have gone through things that we've gone through where they haven't gotten much recognition for what they've done."

ASU has accomplished some notable feats this year. The Sun Devils upset UCLA 69-68 Feb. 16, marking the first time in 15 years the team has won at Pauley Pavilion. On Jan. 23, ASU shocked then-No. 10 Arizona, defeating the Wildcats 88-72 in Tempe.

The Sun Devils weren't quite so lucky when they traveled to Berkeley Feb. 2 and dropped a 67-59 decision to the Bears.

"We had to fight to win," Braun said. "They're a team to scrap and play aggressively. They are going to present a challenge for us."

In that game Tommy Smith scored a team-high 15 points and Shawn Redhage, who isn't even a probable starter for tonight's game, notched a career-high 13.

But the man of the moment for ASU is junior Chad Prewitt, who leads the team in scoring at 17.5 points per game.

The Sun Devils clearly have an array of potent shooters, but Cal has an arsenal of its own.

Balance is the buzzword for the Bears, and against ASU earlier in the season Cal maximized its ability to spread out the offense. Amit Tamir and Ryan Forehan-Kelly led the way with 13 points, Joe Shipp chipped in 12 and Solomon Hughes added 11.

The Bears will undoubtedly look to continue to share offensive duties tonight as a complement to what has shaped up to be the conference's top defense.

Cal currently leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense (63.9 ppg allowed), field goal percentage defense (40.5 percent), turnover margin (+4.88) and has racked up 110 blocks on the season.

One of the biggest reasons for the Bears' ability to block shots is the play of Jamal Sampson. The 6-foot-11 freshman has already swatted 48 shots away this year, including four blocks against USC last weekend.

Another boost for Cal's cause tonight is the probable return of point guard Shantay Legans, who sat out against USC due to a concussion he received after Matt Barnes knocked him to the floor in Cal's game against UCLA.

Although the Bears are focusing on the task at hand, Arizona awaits Saturday as a chance for Cal to redeem its lone home loss.

The Bears face off against the Wildcats at 11 a.m. at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Arizona's highly-touted guard Jason Gardner continues to lead the Wildcats with 20.4 ppg.


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