The California Golden Bears (6-5) are licking some wounds after an embarrassing 77-89 defeat at the hands of the mid-major Saint Mary’s Gaels last week. California Coach Mark Fox will hope Christmas comes early this year as his side takes on the Boston College Eagles (7-5) in the Al Attles Classic Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles travel to San Francisco with some tailwinds. Boston College is riding a three-game win streak, including a 73-72 nail-biter over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Dec. 7, in South Bend, Ind.
California and Boston College have met only two times previously, and the Golden Bears lost both meetings played on neutral courts by double-digits. Most recently, the Eagles sacked the Golden Bears to the tune of 68-46 in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 28, 2010.
While the Golden Bears have lost all four games away from Haas Pavilion this season, the upcoming matchup might just as well be a home game. California and Boston College are among the first collegiate sides to compete in the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center arena and the first college basketball tournament in San Francisco in 80 years.
The Al Attles Classic is a four-game daylong tournament hosted by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and honors name-sake Al Attles, the 2019 Hall of Fame inductee, who is indelibly associated with the Warriors.
Attles made history in 1970 when he became the coach of the Warriors, as a player, and one of the first African-American head coaches in the NBA. The point guard played 11 seasons in the NBA, all with the Warriors, including when the team called Philadelphia its home.
1. Crash the boards.
California needs to improve its rebounding this season and fast. Opponents too often earn second and even third-chance opportunities against the Golden Bears by racking up series of offensive boards.
A bright spot this season has been the contributions of Grant Anticevich, who leads the team in defensive rebounds and claims the second most offensive boards, but other Golden Bears will need to contribute, too.
2. Be smart from downtown.
California will need to limit the number of looks the Eagles have beyond the arc. In particular, the Golden Bears will want to frustrate Jay Heath and Derryck Thornton, who both attempt four or more shots from downtown every match.
Heath and Jared Hamilton have been particularly accurate, sinking 42.6 percent and 44 percent of their go-long attempts, respectively.
3. Watch out for Steffon Mitchell.
The six-foot-eight Boston College junior forward is on fire. His teammates Derryck Thornton (14.2 points per game), Jay Heath (13 points per game) and Nik Popovic (11.8 points per game) may get the headlines for points scored, but Mitchell is the East Coast side’s Swiss Army knife.
Last week Mitchell earned two back-to-back double-doubles in blowout wins against the Albany Great Danes and Central Connecticut Blue Devils. From Dec. 9 to 15, he averaged 14 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 5.5 steals per match and was accurate on 59 percent of his shots.
Projected Boston College Eagles Starters
Nik Popovic, forward: 11.8 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 1.9 assists per game
Jairus Hamilton, forward: 8.4 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 1.3 assists per game
Steffon Mitchell, forward: 7.2 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game, three assists per game
Derryck Thornton, guard: 14.2 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 3.9 assists per game
Jay Heath, guard: 13 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, 1.6 assists per game
Key Boston College Eagles Reserves
CJ Felder, forward: 5.8 points per game, four rebounds per game, 0.8 assists per game
Jared Hamilton, guard: eight points per game, 2.5 rebounds per game, 1.1 assists per game
Julian Rishwain, guard: 4.9 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game, 0.9 assists per game