California will seek its first victory over a ranked team this season when the Golden Bears play host to 21st-ranked Colorado in a Pac-12 Conference matchup Thursday night.
The game is a rematch of a 71-65 Buffaloes victory at home Feb. 6, a contest in which Cal outshot Colorado 55.6 percent to 48 percent.
The difference that night came on the boards, where the Buffaloes earned a 32-23 advantage, and at the free-throw line, where the hosts had seven more attempts and converted eight more.
Colorado (21-7, 10-5 Pac-12) will take the court tied with Oregon and UCLA for second place in the conference, with all three a half-game behind Arizona State (10-4).
The Buffaloes completed their conference home schedule Saturday with a 70-63 loss to UCLA. They finish conference play at Cal on Thursday, at Stanford on Sunday and at Utah on March 7.
Cal (11-16, 5-9) will face Colorado on Thursday and then Utah on Saturday to complete their regular-season home schedule. They wrap up Pac-12 play at Oregon and Oregon State next week.
Cal has designated Thursday’s contest as a Pete Newell Classic game. The Golden Bears will honor former standout Shareef Abdur-Rahim with a Pete Newell Lifetime Achievement Award.
A Georgia native, Abdur-Rahim played just one season at Cal, but it was impressive. He earned Pac-12 Player of the Year honors, which he used as a springboard into the 1996 NBA draft, where he was chosen with the third overall pick by the Vancouver Grizzlies.
Abdur-Rahim currently serves as president of the NBA G League.
He will get an opportunity to see a Colorado team that has won five of its past seven to put itself in a position to possibly win the Pac-12 regular-season title. The team’s 21 wins are three shy of the school record, set in 2011 and matched in 2012.
The Buffaloes, who haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2016, have beaten Cal five straight times.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle observed after the earlier win over Cal that his team hadn’t played its best game, which he turned into a positive.
“It reminded me of wins we had in November and December, when we weren’t very good, but we found a way to win the game,” he said. “The sign of a somber locker room after a league win tells us that we have pretty high expectations of ourselves.”
Cal played competitively in a 77-72 loss to Oregon in its only previous home game against a ranked opponent. The Golden Bears are 0-4 overall against ranked foes.
They are 10-5 in Berkeley this season, although their past two home games — against Arizona and Arizona State — resulted in losses.
The Golden Bears, who have lost five of six, are coming off an 87-52 road shellacking at the hands of Washington. It was Cal’s biggest margin of defeat ever against the Huskies, and a potential rallying point for his team, coach Mark Fox suggested.
“We haven’t made very many stinkers this year. We’ve had some defeats. Today was a stinker,” Fox said to the media after the game. “We still have a lot to learn.”
–Field Level Media