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Nevada, California to resume border war today in Berkeley

BY DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

The Nevada basketball team, fresh off home wins over Sonoma State, Southern Illinois and Arkansas Pine-Bluff, takes its show on the road when it faces the University of California today.

Tip-off for the non-conference basketball game is set for 3:05 p.m. at Haas Pavilion. The game is being televised locally on KAME.

The Wolf Pack enters the game with a 6-4 record, while Cal comes in at 7-2 after a 72-69 road win at Utah. Cal knocked off Nevada 74-68 last year at Lawlor Events Center.

“I think Cal is a good basketball team,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said after the win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff. “It is a difficult place to play. We have to really be strong. They have a number of shooters.”

Fox was referring to 5-foot-10 guard Jerome Randle, who was a high school teammate of ex-Pack star JaVale McGee, who is now with the Washington Wizards.

Randle is averaging 20.3 points per game, and he gets scoring help from backcourt mate Patrick Christopher, who averages 14.2 ppg, and small forward Theo Robertson, who is at 12.3. Robertson missed last year with a hip injury, which required surgery.

“Randle is shooting 60 percent from (3-point range),” Fox said. “He’s a terrific lead guard. Theo and Christopher are very good players, very talented.”

Power forward Jamal Boykin, who will likely guard Nevada freshman Luke Babbitt, comes in at 8.9 ppg. At center is 7-footer Jordan Wilkes, son of former NBA star Keith Wilkes. Wilkes averages 4.4 ppg a contest.

Ex-Stanford coach Mike Montgomery, who took over for Ben Braun this year, hopes his team plays more like it did in wins at UNLV and Utah rather than the squad that got blown out at Missouri, 93-66.

“I hope we’re not the team that played Missouri,” said Montgomery at his weekly press conference with the Bay Area media. ” I don’t think that was indicative of us. I don’t think we’re as good as Missouri and I don’t think we’re going to fly back to Missouri and just beat them, but I think we can compete with them.

“There’s always the issue of how you match up with somebody. Utah and Vegas are not as good as Missouri either. You play each game, and each presents a different challenge. You still have to execute.”

Montgomery said that Nevada will pose some defensive problems, but given that Trent Johnson was Montgomery’s assistant at Stanford, the new Cal coach feels he knows Nevada pretty well.

“They’re good defensively, particularly on the perimeter,” Montgomery said of the Pack. ” They’ve got good athletes, a good concept. They run all the stuff we used to run (at Stanford). You look at it and you can see how they’ve tweaked it based on what they want to do. They run four or five things which we are running.

“They’ve done some different things out of it that they like a little bit better, but yeah, they run cutters off posts and post-duck. They’ve always been a little more open. They run a five-man spread game. They’ll go small and Babbitt will then be their small guy at 6-9.”

Babbitt comes into the game averaging 14.9 ppg, while Armon Johnson is at 14.1. Montgomery was asked about both players at the press conference.

“Babbit’s the real deal. He’s a very good player, a great pickup for them,” Montgomery said. “He’s strong, fundamentally sound. He’s got great shot fakes. He can put it on the floor. If he gets to the basket he can finish very well, and he’s got 3-point range. He’s a prototypical (power forward) that’s probably going to play at the next level.

“Johnson is a scorer. They will try to post up Jerome, I would think, a little bit. They run some stuff late where they ” again, which is a little rub-action ” where they look down at (Johnson), because he is 6-3, so we’ll have to talk about that. He can shoot it and he’s probably the first or second guy looking to make plays for them.”

NOTES: Cal reserve Harper Kamp has been battling a knee injury, but expects to play. Taylor Harrison also has been having knee problems, and missed Thursday’s practice … After the Cal game, Nevada won’t return to action until Dec. 27 when it hosts Idaho State, and then Nevada hosts No. 1 North Carolina on New Year’s Eve at 7.

– Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or (775) 881-1281