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M. Basketball: Card set for clash with cross-town rival Cal

To cap off an up-and-down 2010-11 regular season, the Stanford men’s basketball team travels across the Bay to face rival California Saturday night.

The Cardinal (15-14, 7-10 Pac-10) is coming off a 77-66 nonconference victory over Seattle University and will be looking for a season sweep of the Bears (16-13, 9-8), which would be its first since 2008.

Junior forward Josh Owens (13) is averaging 12 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting a blistering 59 percent from the field. He will lead Stanford against rival Cal Saturday in the last Pac-10 game of the year. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

During the teams’ first meeting this year on Jan. 2–which was also both teams’ Pac-10 debuts–Stanford powered to an 82-68 victory on the backs of junior guard Jeremy Green and freshman forward Dwight Powell. Green started off the Pac-10 season strong, finishing with 21 points, while Powell, in the highest scoring game of his young career, contributed 20 points to go along with seven rebounds.

Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins talked about what he sees from Cal going into Saturday’s game.

“They’re a good team,” he said. “They’re playing well. Of course, it’s a rival game so I’m sure they’ll be fired up, just as we will. It will be very competitive and it’ll be a great environment. We look forward to the challenge.”

During Pac-10 play, Cal is 5-3 at home and the team is looking for its fourth straight victory.  The Bears are led by junior forward Harper Kamp (14.4 points per game) and junior guard Jorge Gutierrez (14.8 ppg and 4.5 assists per game), both of whom played well in the first matchup against the Cardinal. Kamp had 16 points on the inside and Gutierrez dished out 8 assists, his 3rd-highest total this season.

The game should also feature plenty of outside shooting. Stanford will be looking to exploit the Bears’ perimeter play, as Cal is allowing opponents to shoot 39 percent from beyond the arc in Pac-10 play. In its first meeting with Cal, Stanford made nine of 17 three-pointers, with Green making four of them. But Cal itself also shoots well from the 3-point line, making 40 percent of its threes in Pac-10 games this season.

Last year, the teams also met in the regular season finale–the Bears won that matchup, clinching the Pac-10 regular season title in the process. Dawkins commented on how Cal’s run last year can factor into this year’s game.

“They’ve got a mature front line,” he said. “They have some veterans that have experienced lot of success, like Gutierrez. The difference in experience poses a challenge to us.”

Lacking significant team experience and without a senior on the roster, the Cardinal relies on youth. The Cardinal’s freshman core played a pivotal role in the first matchup between the teams this season. In addition to Powell’s big performance, freshman guard Aaron Bright scored 10 points while his classmate and fellow guard, Anthony Brown, chipped in with 11 points.

Dawkins noted how Saturday’s matchup feels different from the first one.

“Both teams, absolutely, in two months have changed,” he said. “Our season is like a lifetime–the players go through so many experiences. They start to evolve. For our team, our identity has somewhat changed from then to now.

“You know, probably five out of our top eight players who are contributing are freshmen. We rely on those kids to bring consistency,” he continued. “They’ve all got better and really started to contribute to what we’re trying to accomplish. “

Stanford is currently eighth in the Pac-10, while Cal is holding onto the fifth spot. Both schools are jockeying for better positions in the Pac-10 tournament next week, as teams in the top six places receive first-round byes in Los Angeles.

Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif.

  • Oski

    So, how did the game turn out?

    Did the Furd play well?