NCAA News Wire

Arizona back on track with win over Cal

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
We sometimes use affiliate links in our content, when clicking on those we might receive a commission – at no extra cost to you. By using this website you agree to our terms and conditions and privacy policy.

TUCSON, Ariz. –The Arizona Wildcats found their groove again after playing a series of tight games and falling from an eight-week run at No. 1.

Getting 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists from guard Nick Johnson, the third-ranked Wildcats avenged their first loss of the season by beating the Cal Golden Bears 87-59 at McKale Center on Wednesday night.

That came on the heels of an 88-61 win at Colorado.

“You can make the case that our game at Colorado and tonight’s game might have been the best back-to-back games that we played,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

“One of the things that is happening is our offense is continuing to develop. I don’t think we have a bunch of shooters that are hot as much as that we’re playing well together. We’re using our defense to create some fast-break opportunities.”

Before the Colorado game, five of Arizona’s previous six games had been decided by no more than four points. The Wildcats lost two of those, including a 60-58 setback at Cal on Feb. 1, when forward Brandon Ashley suffered a season-ending foot injury.

“We have stayed the course,” Miller said. “Win, lose or Brandon getting injured, we had to regroup. I think we’ve done a really good job of doing that.”

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 over the then-No. 1 Wildcats in Berkeley, scored a team-high 12 points and was the only Bear in double figures.

The Bears (18-10, 9-6) are trying to bolster their NCAA tournament resume but are only 3-3 since their upset of Arizona.

“They were solid and a little angry having lost to us,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of the Wildcats. “They’re making shots now. At our place, they weren’t making all their shots. They’re playing really well right now.”

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.

“It was frustration,” Montgomery said of the technical fouls. “It happens when you’re not making plays.”

Arizona ended the game on a 32-13 run.

“We’re just trying to win the league championship right now,” Johnson said. “It feels good, but we need to stay in our defensive groove.”

Johnson, meanwhile, is finding his offensive groove again, with 42 points in the past two games.

“Nick is playing as well as he’s played all season long,” Miller said. “He was a dominant performer tonight.”

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.

Most everything went Arizona’s way, including a banked 3-pointer from guard Gabe York. Gordon, shooting 41.1 percent from the free throw line, made 5 of 6. When Johnson missed a dunk in the second half, the long carom went to McConnell, who drained a 3-pointer.

“Yeah, that was planned,” Johnson said with a smile. “It was going well for us.”

NOTES: Cal F Richard Solomon entered the game averaging 11.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, making him one of

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

Trending Now