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Preview: Washington at California

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Two teams off to surprisingly strong starts in the Pac-12 meet Wednesday when Washington visits California, which won its first three road conference games for the first time since 1957. The Huskies struggled through a tough non-conference schedule, but they’ve used an improved defense to win three of their first four in league play, including Sunday’s 71-54 win over Colorado. The Huskies have limited their first four Pac-12 foes to 61.8 points per game after yielding an average of 79.2 points in non-conference action.

Washington will need another solid defensive effort against California point guard Justin Cobbs, who was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after averaging 20 points, 10 assists and 5.5 rebounds in road wins over Oregon and Oregon State. Cobbs, the Pac-12’s active career assist leader, captured the award ahead of a group that included Washington’s C.J. Wilcox. The Huskies' guard scored 31 points against Colorado and ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 20.5 points while shooting 88.6 percent from the foul line.

TV: 11 p.m. ET, ESPNU

ABOUT WASHINGTON (11-6, 3-1 Pac-12): Wilcox is 17-for-34 from beyond the 3-point arc in league play after making seven triples against Colorado. “Every time he shoots it, you think it’s going in,” Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle told reporters. “He’s got such a good stroke and release. He’s pretty special.” The Huskies rank among the worst rebounding teams in the Pac-12, and forward Perris Blackwell (team-high 7.4 rebounds) will need help near the basket from the team’s starting four guards against the formidable California front line.

ABOUT CALIFORNIA (12-4, 3-0): The Golden Bears will again be without injured guards Ricky Kreklow (hand) and Jabari Bird (ankle), but players such as senior Jeff Powers are capitalizing on the extra playing time. Powers is averaging 9.3 points while shooting 11-for-15 from 3-point range over the past four games, and freshman guard Jordan Mathews scored a career-high 32 points in last week’s win at Oregon. The front line is led by forwards Richard Solomon (Pac-12-leading 10.2 rebounds) and David Kravish, who scored 14 points in last season’s 62-47 loss to the Huskies.

TIP-INS

1. The all-time series is tied at 78 games apiece, but California owns a 40-26 edge at home.

2. The home team is 12-10 through the first two weeks of Pac-12 action.

3. Wilcox collected 19 points and eight rebounds in last season’s win over the Golden Bears.

PREDICTION: California 70, Washington 65

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/140115/preview-washington-at-california