Butler will get a final tune-up before a rugged start to Big East play when the Bulldogs visit winless Cal for a nonconference men’s basketball contest Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Calif.
The Bulldogs (7-3) will be looking for a fourth consecutive win when they meet up with the Golden Bears (0-10), who began the day Friday as one of just three Division I teams without a win, joining Louisville (0-8) and Central Connecticut State (0-9).
Butler jumps right into the Big East frying pan with a conference opener at home against No. 5 UConn next Saturday, followed by a trip to No. 21 Creighton.
No doubt, the Bulldogs would like to gain some road momentum at Cal, having lost their only true road game at Penn State before going 1-2 at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Butler’s three-game winning streak came at home, where it recorded double-digit victories over Kansas State, Tennessee Tech and Yale.
With Cal star Devin Askew questionable again after missing Wednesday’s 50-48 home loss to Eastern Washington with an illness, the game could come down to a battle in the interior between Butler’s Manny Bates and Cal’s Lars Thiemann.
Bates played all 40 minutes in Butler’s 71-61 home win over Yale on Tuesday, scoring 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting while also finding time for seven rebounds and two assists.
He noted he’d like to improve on the latter, even though his season average (1.6) is more than double his previous best in three seasons at North Carolina State.
“We practice a lot on me being patient in the post,” Bates said. “As soon as I catch the ball, I gotta look and see how the defense is playing me.”
Thiemann had 16 points and six rebounds in Cal’s loss earlier in the week to Eastern Washington. He’s averaging 13.2 points this year after registering a career-high 4.7 in his third season with the Golden Bears a year ago.
Even without Askew, the team’s leading scorer 18.3 points per game, the Golden Bears had a shot at their first win Wednesday when, with Cal down two and time running out, Kuany Kuany rimmed out a 3-point attempt from the right corner.
Cal coach Mark Fox applauded the effort without Askew.
“I think adversity in the long run is good for these guys,” Fox said. “I think on the other side of this there will be a lot of positives. We have to battle through to the other side.”
Butler and Cal have never met previously in men’s basketball.
–Field Level Media