Maui, HI (SportsNetwork.com) - Both the California Golden Bears and the eighth-ranked Syracuse Orange will put their unbeaten records on the line on Tuesday night in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.
The winner will advance to Wednesday's championship game to play the survivor of the Baylor/Dayton matchup, while the losers square off in the third-place game.
Cal is off to an outstanding start to the season with wins in each of its first five bouts. After going perfect on its season-opening, four-game homestand, the Golden Bears landed in Maui and defeated Arkansas in the opening round on Monday, 85-77. After a tightly-contested first half, they took a slim 34-32 lead into intermission, then they pulled away in the second half by shooting a lofty 53.3 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes. They dominated the glass, 48-32, which helped overcome their 18 turnovers. Pacing five players in double figures was David Kravish with a career-high 19 points, to go with 15 rebounds and three blocks. Ricky Kreklow scored 17 points off the bench, Justin Cobbs tallied 15 points and seven assists, Jabari Bird also netted 15 points and Richard Solomon rounded out the balanced effort with 11 points and seven boards.
Syracuse has lived up to its sky-high expectations this season, as it too has won each of its first five games. After a perfect four-game homestand, Syracuse made its debut in the tournament on Monday afternoon and took care of business against a strong Minnesota squad with a 75-67 win. The Orange appeared in control early in the second half, as they led by as many as 14, but while the Golden Gophers clawed their way back to within two at the 2:14 mark, the Orange rattled off eight straight points to seal the deal. Leading the way in the victory was C.J. Fair, who tallied a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, although he was also plagued by five turnovers. Trevor Cooney netted 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting from 3-point range, while Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant scored 12 points apiece.
Syracuse and Cal met in the third round of last season's NCAA Tournament, with the Orange coming away with a 66-60 win to take a 2-0 lead in the all-time series.
The Golden Bears have been outstanding at both ends of the court this season, as they outshoot their opponents, 45.6 percent to 35.0 percent, while boasting a lofty +17.2 scoring margin. They are also dominant on the glass (+12.6 rebounding margin). All five starters average in double figures, paced by Bird's 12.8 points per game, and he is Cal's top threat from 3-point range (12-of-22). Cobbs (12.0 ppg) has handed out 32 assists compared to just 10 turnovers. Solomon (11.0 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg) is a force in the paint at both ends, while Tyrone Wallace (11.4 ppg) and Kravish (11.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg) have also played well.
The Orange haven't exactly been red-hot shooting the ball in the early going, as they are draining just 42.6 percent of their field goal tries, including 32.9 percent from 3-point range, but that hasn't stopped them from scoring 74.2 points per game, 14 more than they allow. A big reason for their success has been their outstanding +7.2 turnover margin. Fair (17.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg) has lived up to his Preseason All-ACC First-Team selection. Cooney (13.2 ppg) has been on the mark from long distance at 15-of-33, while Grant comes off the bench to tally 11.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.