Berkeley, CA – The UC Irvine Anteaters will meet the No. 24 conference clash Friday that marks the season opener for both clubs.
The Anteaters embarked on a new era last season under first year head coach Russell Turner, who guided the team to a 13-19 record. Turner is a disciple of Cal coach Mike Montgomery, having served under Montgomery on staffs at Stanford and with the NBA's Golden State Warriors within the last 10 years. UC Irvine is awfully young, featuring no seniors and eight freshman heading into this season.
Montgomery is in his fourth year with California, and guided the Golden Bears to a 18-15 season in 2010-11 and an appearance in the NIT. Cal is slated to finish second in the newly minted Pac-12 this season according to the media polls, and have three outstanding returners in its lineup that made heavy contributions a year ago. Cal will meet George Washington in the Progressive CBE Classic on Sunday.
California leads the all-time series with UC Irvine, 4-2. The last meeting between these two teams came in 2003.
UC-Irvine must fill a big void left by three of its top scorers from last season, which led the Anteaters to a league-best 75.3 points per game. Mike Wilder is the team's most productive returner, as he averaged 9.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg a year ago. Daman Starring also returns in the backcourt for the Anteaters after starting 30 games last season, averaging 7.4 ppg and chipping in a team- high 30 steals. Will Davis has been an impressive freshman this fall, posting double-doubles in each of UC Irvine's two exhibition games.
The Golden Bears have four starters back, most notably senior guard Jorge Gutierrez. The talented Gutierrez was the floor leader for Cal a year ago, and led the team in scoring at 14.6 ppg. He will team with the 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in Allen Crabbe to comprise one of the best backcourt in the league. Crabbe averaged 13.4 ppg last season and hit 62 three-pointers, which set a school record for a freshman. Harper Kamp is also back, and gives the team a player who can create on the perimeter; Kamp averaged 14.2 ppg last season, all the while dishing out 148 assists and coming up with 54 steals as Cal's most well-rounded player.