close

skip in skip
x

embed

x

share

asu basketball returns home to face ivan rabb and california.

arizona st california basketball

california's ivan rabb (1) drives to the hoop past arizona state's jethro tshisumpa (42) during the first half of an ncaa college basketball game sunday, jan. 1, 2017, in berkeley, calif. (ap p o/d. ross eron)(p o: d. ross eron/ap)

everything seems to be stacked against the arizona state men's basketball team on wednesday.

california is four games above asu in the pac-12 basketball standings and has six more wins overall.

the bears (17-6, 8-3) beat asu, 81-65, in their first meeting jan. 1, are on a four-game win streak and in contention for the ncaa tournament. espn bracketology currently puts cal just outside the 68-team field.

however, asu (11-13, 4-7) nearly upset now-no. 5 oregon on the road last week before winning at oregon state and was tied at cal with 5:45 remaining. even though the bears made their final eight s s to finish on a 14-2 run for a win, the sun devils believe they can reverse that.

"we broke a little bit at the end of that game," asu coach bobby hurley said. "(kingsley) okoroh had a big dunk, (jabari) bird back cut us for a layup, then we went empty on offense. that ed us to a dark place.

"we've been bending a little more, but not breaking in our last two games especially. i just like we're fighting really hard in these games and having a response to team that make a push on us."

to do so, asu needs to somewhat limit 6-foot-11 forward ivan rabb, who had 20 points, 15 rebounds and five ists on new year's day and 12 double-doubles as a sophomore.

"he's one of the best players in the country," said arizona coach sean miller, who has to worry about rabb on urday. "ivan makes cal a great rebounding team and great defensive team that can kill you inside with second s s."

rabb leads the pac-12 in rebounding (10.9 per game) and gets help from 7-0 okoroh (6.2 per game), and the bears are second in the conference in rebounding margin.

"we have to gang rebound," asu guard shannon evans said. "those guys are bigger than us. we have to control ivan rabb, try to keep charlie moore out of the paint and get (grant) mullins and bird off the line."

free asu app: iphone || android

none of that is easy, of course, which is why cal has a win over every non-ranked team in the pac-12.

colorado's tad boyle said that cal coach cuonzo martin "has done as good a job as any coach in our league. they've won games they're supposed to win and been very consistent in doing so. they guard you."

asu believes it's made a sustainable step forward defensively last week in holding the oregon schools to an average of 69.5 points, well below the opponent season mark of 82.5. a large sample size is needed, but the sun devils were better on transition defense – in getting back and communication – and took fewer unexpected s s that left them exposed.

"our defense has changed tremendously," since the first cal game, asu guard kodi justice said. "we're better at rotations, we know where people need to be. it comes down to communication. it's finally getting across where if you're here, you're going to get stops. we know if we can cut the baseline or t the big or close out the shooters, if we can get people to miss s s, we can go score on the other end and put up a lot of points."

asu continues to boast three of the pac-12's top 10 scorers – torian graham (18.5 ppg), tra holder (17.8) and evans (16.2) – with forward obinna oleka (12.3) also in double figures and justice dangerous with the 3-point s . that's enough firepower to keep the sun devils in contention on most nights.

"they're very hard to guard," martin said. "they can score the ball and stretch you out."

wednesday's game

california at arizona state

when: 9 p.m.

where: wells fargo arena.

tv/radio: espnu/ktar-am 620.

asu: the sun devils are 7-4 overall, 2-2 pac-12 at home, where they play five of their final seven regular-season games. asu committed just 14 turnovers last week against the oregon schools and is no. 12 nationally in fewest turnovers (10.6 per game). actor charlie day will make a guest appearance with the 942 crew as part of the curtain of distraction, like swimmer michael phelps did last season.

cal: the bears won 77-75 in double-overtime at utah and 77-66 at colorado last week, their third and fourth straight wins. they are tied for third in the pac-12 with no. 10 ucla and no. 41 in the ncaa ratings percentage index. freshman g charlie moore is averaging more than seven  ists in the last three games. "he's done a great job of finding guys and getting guys involved," cal coach cuonzo martin said. "our ist numbers as a team are going up because of that."

2 connectlinkedinemailmore