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ASU Men’s Basketball: The Sun Devils try and start the new year with a Northern California sweep

(Photo: Eliav Gabay/WCSN)

Arizona State will look to continue their positive momentum on January 1 as they face off against Cal on the road.

Cal holds a 9-4 record and is coming off of two straight losses at home, albeit against top competition. They lost both affairs in tight games, losing by a combined seven points to number 12 Virginia and number 18 Arizona in their Pac-12 opener.

Cal freshman guard Charlie Moore has been spectacular so far this season and has shouldered a large share of the scoring load for the Golden Bears. Moore leads the team with 15.8 points per game and 3.3 assists per game.

He has also been a pest in the passing lanes, nabbing a team-high 1.3 steals per game.

Rounding out Cal’s top players are potential-future lottery pick sophomore forward Ivan Rabb and veteran senior guard Jabari Bird.

Rabb has built off of an impressive freshman campaign by increasing his scoring, rebounding, and assist averages. He has been a dominant presence on the boards pulling down 9.8 rebounds per game.

His raw athleticism and polished offensive game provide a huge potential problem for an undersized ASU lineup.

Bird is the type of large, athletic guard that has given the Sun Devils problems this season. His ability to drive to the basket and draw attention from defenses to create open looks for teammates may prove particularly potent against ASU, especially when a lot of the focus will be towards Rabb.

Cal also has one of the better defenses in the country, only allowing 59.9 points per game and 37.3 percent shooting from the field.

In order to pull off this tough road test, the Sun Devils must once again rely on their trio of talented guards, senior Torian Graham, junior Tra Holder, and junior Shannon Evans.

Graham has been absolutely on fire as of late, setting a new career high in scoring each of his past three games. He dropped 30 points on 70 percent shooting in ASU’s last game against Stanford.

He needs to play at that level again against Cal if the Sun Devils want any chance of pulling out a victory.

Senior forward Obinna Oleka is once again going to be counted on to provide some kind of presence in the paint for ASU. Oleka is averaging a double-double this season but going up against Rabb will bill a tough test for the senior. He struggled in the previous game where he was also matched up with a larger presence.

The game will tip-off at 8 p.m. at Haas Pavilion in Berkley and can be watched on the Pac-12 network.

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