NCAA BK

Denver-California Preview

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After recording four decisive victories to open the season, California was on the wrong end of a lopsided margin in its most recent game.

The 20th-ranked Golden Bears will try to bounce back from that defeat as they return home Saturday to face unbeaten Denver.

California breezed through its first four games by an average of 22.2 points and routed Georgia 70-46 on Monday to advance to the CBE Classic championship in Kansas City, Mo., against No. 21 Missouri.

The Bears (4-1) absorbed a 92-53 drubbing in which they shot 29.8 percent - 21.1 less in than their previous four contests - and committed 21 turnovers, six more than in any other game.

"We've never seen it before - not this year. It was pretty hard for us to get the ball where we wanted it to be," senior guard Jorge Gutierrez said.

Cal also allowed the Tigers to shoot 58.8 percent after holding its initial opponents to a combined 36.8 percent.

"We really didn't have very much going," coach Mike Montgomery said. "It's as simple as that."

A return home might help Montgomery's club, but it might face a challenge from a Denver team off to its best start in 15 seasons. After going 13-17 in 2010-11, the Pioneers are 4-0 for the first time since winning seven straight to begin the 1996-97 campaign.

In its most recent game Tuesday, Denver earned a 70-58 victory over Saint Mary's, a team that had recorded 25 or more wins in each of the last four seasons.

"It's coming together for us," coach Joe Scott said. "We showed today that we're a good basketball team because we beat a really good basketball team."

Rob Lewis scored 15 of his season-high 17 points in the second half, and Justin Coughlin made three of his team's 10 shots from 3-point range. Lewis, one of three players averaging in double figures for the Pioneers, missed all of last season while recovering from a back injury.

During Lewis' junior season, Denver posted 19 wins, one shy of matching its best victory total since joining Division I in 1998-99.

Cal is facing Denver for the first time since winning matchups in 1966-67 and 1967-68, and the Bears could use more help from scoring co-leader Allen Crabbe to earn another victory over the Pioneers.

The sophomore guard, averaging 13.0 points, hasn't had more than nine in each of his last three games after topping 20 in both of his first two. He was held to six points on 1-of-8 shooting in the loss to Missouri.

Tagged: California, Denver, Rob Lewis

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