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ASU Men’s Basketball: Undersized Sun Devils face daunting task in Golden Bears

(Photo: Nicole Hernandez/WCSN)

After a dominant win over Oregon State on the road Arizona State will look to get some positive momentum going with a tough test at home against Cal. When these two teams faced off earlier in the season, at Berkley, Cal came away with a dominant 81-65 victory fueled by star sophomore forward Ivan Rabb’s 20 point, 15 rebound effort.

The two teams have gone in very different directions since then, with Cal earning a 7-2 record since that game (with their only losses coming at No. 4 ranked UCLA and at No. 11 Oregon). ASU, on the other hand has gone 3-6 with losses to No. 16 Arizona, No. 3 UCLA, and No. 13 Oregon.

This impressive performance recently by Cal has been fueled by a stout defense aided by efficient rebounding. The Golden Bears are ranked 16 in the country in scoring defense only allowing an average of 63.1 points per game. They also rank 11 in opponent’s effective field goal percentage, only allowing an average effective field goal percentage of 44.4 percent per game.

Cal attacks the boards both aggressively and successfully coming in at 17 in the country with 40 rebounds per game. Rabb leads the way with an average of almost 11 rebounds per game and also leads the team in scoring with 15.2 points per game.

Rabb will surely be the toughest Cal player for the Sun Devils to stop on both the offensive and defensive ends. ASU senior forward Obinna Oleka will surely be called upon to battle with Rabb, as he has been the only consistently successful post player for the Sun Devils all season.

Cal senior guard Jabari Bird (14.5 points per game) will also be a difficult challenge to stop for ASU, but they are much better equipped to do so. Guards Torian Graham, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II pace the team with 18.5, 17.8, and 16.2 points per game respectively and all three have done a decent job this season locking down opposing guards.

For ASU to have a chance in this tough home game, they are going to need Oleka to have one of his best defensive and rebounding performances of the season, while also getting the scoring output from Graham, Holder and Evans that the team depends on.

The game tips off at 9 p.m. MST and can be viewed on ESPNU.

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