The California Golden Bears (4-1) will face the No. 22 Texas Longhorns (4-1) in the third-place match to complete their run in the 2K Empire Classic benefiting Wounded Warriors Project. Both sides will seek redemption Friday at 2 p.m. PT to make the best of their trip to Madison Square Garden.
Mike Krzyzewski’s No. 1 Duke Devils (5-0) handed Mark Fox his first loss as the head coach of California Thursday night in an 87-52 semifinal drumming, which also ended the Bears’ best season start since the 2015 season. Similarly, ahead of their Thursday matchup, the Longhorns had earned their first national top-25 rankings appearance since Nov. 26, 2018, when they were ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press poll. The Longhorns lost 66-82 after the Georgetown Hoyas (5-0) and will likely fall out of national lists as a result.
Friday’s contest, which will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2, should be a good test of resiliency for the Bears. The California faithful will tune into the game to see if Coach Fox can make the necessary adjustments and create positive memories in a season where the Berkeley, Calif., side is expected to finish last in conference play, according to the preseason media poll.
1. Guard the arc.
True to their local stereotype, Texas is not gun-shy. Eleven Longhorns have attempted a combined 132 three-point shots from downtown already this preseason. Matt Coleman III, the 6-foot-2 junior guard, has been playing lights-out, scoring 13 out of 18 tries. Other long-range bombers include Jase Febres (11 out of 36 attempts) and Andrew Jones (nine out of 27), which could spell bad news for the Bears who just gave up 10 three-pointers.
2. Avoid giving away free points to the Longhorns.
California cannot afford a repeat of its season-high 27 fouls committed Thursday, especially as it struggles to score. The Longhorns are shooting 75% from the charity stripe in the preseason, including 90% on 10 attempts in their last time out.
Projected Texas Longhorns Starters
- Matt Coleman III, guard: 16 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game
- Jase Febres, guard: 8.2 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per game, one assist per game
- Courtney Ramey, guard: 8.4 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game
- Gerald Liddell, forward: 8.8 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, two assists per game
- Jericho Sims, forward: 7.8 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game, 0.8 assists per game
Key Texas Longhorns Reserves
- Andrew Jones, guard: 11.8 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, two assists per game
- Donovan Williams, guard: 4.2 points per game, 0.8 rebounds per game, zero assists per game
- Royce Hamm Jr., forward: 4.2 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game, 0.2 assists per game