Cal Basketball: Bears Hope to Delay Washington's Pac-12 Title Celebration

Matt Bradley is the only Cal player consistently making shots these days.Photo by Al Sermeno, KLC fotos

Huskies' defense will challenge Cal's bid for long-awaited for its first conference victory

CAL (5-22, 0-15 Pac-12) vs. No. 25 WASHINGTON (22-5, 13-1)

WHERE: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley

WHEN: Thursday, 8 p.m.


CAL-WASHINGTON HISTORY: Cal leads 84-81 in a series that began in 1915-16. Washington has won the past three meetings, including by a 71-52 margin last month in Seattle. The Bears won six in a row prior to last season.

CAL STORYLINES: The Bears, who have lost 16 straight games and 22 consecutive regular-season Pac-12 contests, have just three more chances to pick up a win before the conference schedule ends. This will be the toughest one of the three as Washington can clinch the outright Pac-12 title with a win here. … The Bears trailed UW just 29-28 last month before the Huskies outscored them 42-23 in the second half. … That second-half collapse has been a conference-long malady for the Bears, who were outscored 41-25 in their loss at Arizona State on Sunday. Through 15 Pac-12 games, the Bears have been outscored by 4.9 points in the first half, then 10.5 points in the second half. Defense has been the difference. Pac-12 opponents score an average of 34.1 points in the first half, then 43.5 after halftime. … Freshman Matt Bradley leads the Pac-12 in 3-point accuracy at 48.4 percent. But he’s the only Cal player consistently connecting from beyond the arc. Over the past 9 games, Bradley is making 49 percent from deep compared with just 27 percent by his teammates. ... Cal remains among just five Division I teams that are winless in their conference. The other four: Tulane (AAC), Vanderbilt (SEC), Portland (WCC) and Chicago State (WAC).

WASHINGTON STORYLINES: The Huskies offer a hopeful message to Cal fans: just two seasons ago they were 2-16 and last in the Pac-12. Under second-year coach Mike Hopkins, they have clinched at least share of the conference title and have become one of the nation’s best defensive teams. … Using the 2-3 matchup zone defense Hopkins brought from his time as an assistant to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, the Huskies rank 19th in Division I in fewest points allowed (63.6), second in blocked shots (6.0) and 10th in steals (9.0). The defense is triggered at the top of the zone by 6-foot-5 senior Matisse Thybulle, who won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year a season ago and is contending for conference Player of the Year honors in 2018-19. He has 301 career steals, just 20 off Gary Payton’s Pac-12 record. Over the past five games, Thybulle is averaging 5.0 steals and 3.2 blocks. … Sophomore Jaylen Nowell leads the team in scoring (16.1) and assists (3.4).

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