Utah Valley (20-11) at California (19-13)
GAME NOTES: In the final game of the first round of the 2014 National Invitation Tournament, the California Golden Bears play host to the Utah Valley Wolverines at Haas Pavilion.
California's play down the stretch kept it from earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Bears, who are No. 2 seed in this event, lost four of their final five games, including a 59-56 verdict to Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament. They are sporting a 19-13 record entering the NIT, which they won back in 1999.
Utah Valley was the Western Athletic Conference regular-season champion, but they fell to Idaho in the semifinals of the league tourney, 74-69. That loss ended a four-game win streak for the Wolverines, who are 20-11 overall and making their first ever appearance in the NIT.
In two previous meetings between these two programs, Cal has come out on top each time, claiming a 60-47 triumph in 2006 and an 85-51 rout in 2009. The winner this time will face either Arkansas or Indiana State in the second round.
Utah Valley couldn't keep up with Idaho from beyond the arc in the WAC Tournament semifinals. The Wolverines were doubled up in points from 3-point range (24-12), despite connecting on 49.1 percent from the field overall. Despite the loss, they did manage to hold a 40-22 scoring edge in the paint.
The success for Utah Valley this season has not come because of strong offensive showings. Although the Wolverines lead the WAC in assists (14.3 apg), they are netting just 67.6 ppg and shooting 43.7 percent from the floor. They have made due, however, by tightening up on defense, allowing 65 ppg on 43 percent efficiency from the field. Holton Hunsaker (14 ppg, 4.2 apg) leads the team in both scoring and assists. Ben Aird (11.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is also a reliable scorer and the best performer on the glass, while Zach nelson (10.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Mitch Bruneel (10.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg) help to bolster the interior effort.
First-Team All-Pac-12 selection Justin Cobbs scored 21 points, but he did not get much help from the rest of the roster in California's Pac-12 tourney loss to Colorado. The Golden Bears connected on only 41.5 percent from the field and were outrebounded by a 38-29 margin.
California may not be one of the top offensive teams in the Pac-12, but it has had more success in that area than its opponent tonight. The Golden Bears are netting 72.4 ppg on a respectable 45.1 percent shooting effort. Cobbs (15.8 ppg, 5.8 apg) is easily the most important player on the roster, as he leads the way in both scoring and assists. Tyrone Wallace (11.3 ppg) is a decent backcourt scorer in his own right, while Richard Solomon (11 ppg, 10.2 rpg) is a consistent double-double threat. Joining Solomon in the frontcourt is David Kravish (11.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2 bpg), who leads the team in blocked shots.
When it was competing in the WAC, Utah Valley was able to control games on the inside. With Kravish and Solomon patrolling the paint for Cal, the Wolverines will have trouble following that blueprint.
GAME NOTES: In the final game of the first round of the 2014 National
Invitation Tournament, the California Golden Bears play host to the Utah
Valley Wolverines at Haas Pavilion.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: Haas Pavilion (11,877) -- Berkeley, California.
Television: ESPN3.com. NIT Record: Utah Valley 0-0, California 12-6. Series
Record: California leads, 2-0.Game Date and Time
Wednesday, March 19, 10:30 p.m. (et)Predicted Outcome
California 78, Utah Valley 67