GAME NOTES: The top-ranked Arizona Wildcats put their perfect record on the line at Haas Pavilion on Saturday evening, as they close out a two-game road trip with a Pac-12 showdown against the California Golden Bears.
Sean Miller's Wildcats continue to build on the best start in school history with each successful outing. The team moved to 21-0 overall and 8-0 in league play on Wednesday night with a hard-fought 60-57 win at Stanford. A strong road team, Arizona is 5-0 this year and leads the conference with 29 true road wins since the 2009-10 campaign.
Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears have defended their home court well this season with 10 wins in 11 outings at Haas Pavilion. However, that lone loss came just three days ago, an 89-78 overtime setback against Arizona State. After winning 14 of its first 18 games, California has hit a rough patch with three straight losses, dropping the team to 5-3 in league play.
Arizona has won three of the last four meetings with California and now holds a 55-29 advantage all-time, including a 21-13 mark in Berkeley. These two teams will meet up again in Tucson on Feb. 26.
There is very little that Arizona hasn't excelled at this season. The foundation of that success comes on the defensive end though, with the Wildcats ranking among the nation's best in scoring defense (56.7 ppg), field- goal percentage defense (.372) and rebounding margin (+9.5). There is plenty of offense to go around as well in Tucson, with Arizona averaging 74.3 ppg on .481 shooting. Nick Johnson leads the way in the backcourt with 16.7 ppg. The frontline is big and athletic, with forwards Brandon Ashley (12.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Aaron Gordon (12.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg) alongside center Kaleb Tarczewski (9.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Point guard T.J. McConnell (7.2 ppg) is charged with running the show, ranking third in the league in assists (5.9 apg).
it wasn't easy, but Johnson's 3-pointer with under a minute to play propelled the Wildcats to the victory over Stanford and kept their perfect season intact. Johnson finished with a team-high 16 points. McConnell added 11, while Ashley posted 10. Gordon struggled in the game, going 2-of-10 from the floor and finishing with a mere five points, although he did grab nine boards. The Wildcats won the game despite having an off night altogether, going just 18- of-50 from the floor overall (.360).
Trailing by as many as 16 points in the second half, Cal turned up the production down the stretch, including a crucial 18-8 run to force the overtime session against the Sun Devils. However, the Golden Bears ran out of steam in the overtime period, getting outscored 17-6. Star guard Justin Cobbs led the way with 21 points in the loss, his fifth game this year with 20 or more points. Tyrone Wallace had a strong outing as well, posting 20 points. David Kravish (16 pts, 9 rebs) and Richard Solomon (8 pts, 13 rebs) just missed double-doubles.
A team that relies on its efficiency at the offensive end of the floor, Cal is netting a solid 75.8 ppg on .464 shooting. Cobbs has been one of the conference's top playmakers, finding shots for himself and others. He ranks 12th in the conference in scoring at 15.5 ppg and second in the league in assists with 6.0 apg. Scoring depth comes in the form of Solomon, Wallace and Kravish, who all are netting 11.6 ppg. Solomon is shooting a hefty .578 from the floor and leads the conference in rebounding with 10.7 rpg.
The Wildcats proved that even when struggling offensively, their defensive play can lead them to victory. California has played well on its home floor, but expect a sharper Arizona squad on Saturday, keeping the dream the season going.
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