No. 25 Arizona State and California continue a streaky series when they open the Pacific-12 Conference men's basketball schedule in Tempe, Ariz., on Thursday night.
The match-up brings together teams that finished in different halves of the Pac-12 standings last season, with Arizona State tying for third place at 11-7, while Cal tied for eighth at 7-11.
The clubs met just once last year, with the Sun Devils prevailing on the road, 80-75. The victory was Arizona State's fifth straight against Cal, a run that followed four straight wins by the Bears.
Arizona State (2-1) has shown off a depth of offensive talent in its first three games, which included an 83-74 loss to 12th-ranked Villanova in Connecticut.
Remy Martin had 26 points and Marcus Bagley 16 in the Sun Devils' win over Rhode Island on the first night of their Connecticut stay, before Josh Christopher erupted for 28 points and Alonzo Verge Jr. 22 against Villanova.
Verge, who shared game-high scoring honors with Martin and Cal's Matt Bradley with 22 points in last year's head-to-head, sat out Sunday's home win over Houston Baptist, after which coach Bobby Hurley gave only a cryptic remark about the absence and possible return for the conference opener.
"It's not a disciplinary issue," Hurley reported, "and he's not hurt."
The Sun Devils took advantage of an outmanned opponent to get their passing game in order on Sunday. After totaling just 17 assists in its first two games, Arizona State registered 21 against Houston Baptist.
"We have a lot of guys that are talented," Kimani Lawrence, who finished with 13 points, said. "Everyone feels they can take their man one-on-one. But us utilizing each other, making each other better, that's what wins games."
For Cal (2-1), the game won't be its first this season against a Pac-12 opponent, but it will be the first that counts toward the conference standings.
Due to a late shake-up in the scheduling of a four-team, two-day event at Oregon State, the Bears wound up playing the Beavers, and losing 71-63, in their season opener, which went down as a nonconference game.
Cal has since beaten Northwest University of Washington and Nicholls State, the latter a 60-49 home affair on Monday that didn't exactly have coach Mark Few oozing with confidence on the eve of the club's conference opener on the road.
"Do I think we're ready? We're not," Fox insisted after the win. "We're going to have to overachieve."
Mixed in among 20 turnovers, Cal showed improvement in 3-point shooting against Nicholls State. Bradley (three), Grant Anticevich (three), Makale Foreman (two) and Ryan Betley (two) all connected at least twice from deep, allowing the Bears to score half their points on 10 3-pointers.
The Bears never made more than 10 threes in a game last season.
Bradley, one of the top returning scorers in the Pac-12, leads the Bears with a 19.3-point average through three games.
--Field Level Media