TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona guard Nick Johnson had 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the third-ranked Wildcats avenged their first loss of the season by beating Cal 87-59 at McKale Center on Wednesday night.
Center Kaleb Tarczewski added 16 points, forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and forward Aaron Gordon and point guard T.J. McConnell each scored 13 for Arizona.
Cal guard Justin Cobbs, who hit the winning jumper when the Bears defeated the then-No. 1 Wildcats 60-58 in Berkeley on Feb. 1, scored a team-high 12 points and was the only Bear in double figures.
The Wildcats (26-2, 13-2) lead the Pac-12 by 2 1/2 games and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over second-place UCLA. Arizona can clinch the top seed in the conference tournament with a victory over visiting Stanford on Sunday.
Arizona led 53-33 with 16 minutes to go, but Cal sliced its deficit to single digits with an 11-0 run, capped by a three-point play from Cobbs. The Bears whittled UA’s edge to eight, 55-47, before Arizona countered emphatically. Tarczewski’s layup ignited an 8-0 run that pushed the lead to 16 with 9:33 to go.
Cal was assessed two technical fouls — one on Cobbs, the other on the bench — for arguing with the officials with 7:14 to go. Johnson made 3 of 4 free throws for a 73-52 lead.
Arizona ended the game on a 32-13 run.
The Bears (18-10, 9-6) are trying to bolster their NCAA tournament resume but are only 3-3 since their upset of Arizona.
Arizona, coming off a second half in which it hit 22 of 26 shots at Colorado, was cold at the start Wednesday; the Wildcats hit just 2 of 8 shots. Cal led 8-2 before the Wildcats got hot, ripping off a 20-6 run.
The highlight in that stretch came from Gordon, who took a steal the length of the court and brought the crowd to its feet by finishing with a reverse slam for a 21-14 lead with 10:43 left in the half.
Cal forward David Kravish, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the teams’ first meeting, managed just seven points and seven boards this time.
He came out after picking up his second foul with 11:35 to go in the half; when he came back at the 4:52 mark, the Bears were down by 12.
It got worse. Hollis-Jefferson surpassed Gordon’s highlight when he took a fast-break dish from Johnson before soaring from the wing for a powerful left-handed dunk with 4:37 to go before half.
The Wildcats led by as many as 17 before taking a 44-29 advantage at the break.
Johnson led Arizona with 12 points in the first half.
NOTES: Cal F Richard Solomon entered the game averaging 11.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, making him one of three players from BCS conferences to average a double-double. … Arizona sophomore C Kaleb Tarczewski turned 21 on Wednesday. … Cal freshman C Kameron Rooks made his playing debut at McKale Center, where his father, Sean Rooks, was a post player for Arizona from 1988 to 1992. … Arizona junior G Nick Johnson passed Herman Harris (1,158 points, 1974-77) for 36th place on the school’s career scoring list. Johnson has 1,168 points.
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