No. 18 Arizona rallies from 13 down to beat California 67-62

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USATSI

No. 18 Arizona rallies from 13 down to beat California 67-62

BERKELEY  — Despite a pretty rigorous non-conference schedule highlighted by two games against ranked teams, Arizona coach Sean Miller wasn't surprised his squad came out a little tentative in its Pac-12 opener.

A strong second half from freshman Kobi Simmons provided all the calming influence the 18th-ranked Wildcats needed.

Dusan Ristic scored 16 points and Arizona overcame a sluggish and sloppy first half to beat California 67-62 on Friday night.

Simmons added 14 points while Lauri Markkanen had 13 points and nine rebounds as the Wildcats (12-2, 1-0) rallied from 13 points down and used a big run coming out of halftime to extend their winning streak to six games.

"It was us just getting back comfortable and finding ourselves," Simmons said after Arizona won for only the second time this season after trailing at halftime. "We know what we can do and we know the players we have. We just came out aggressive (in the second half) and got the job done."

Arizona struggled from the perimeter most of the game before Simmons provided a big lift in the second half. The freshman guard scored 10 consecutive points as part of a 15-4 run coming out of halftime, made a key save at midcourt following an inbounds play under the Wildcats basket, then fed Rawle Alkins for a late dunk to help preserve the win.

"In the second half he gave our team confidence," Miller said. "His spurt there got us the lead. I think we might have relinquished it but from that point on it was a different game."

California (9-4, 0-1) made just nine field goals in the second half and shot 37 percent from the field overall. The Golden Bears have lost consecutive games at Haas Pavilion following a school-record 27-game winning streak.

Ivan Rabb had 16 points and a career-best 16 rebounds for California.

"I just think that, simply, guys that were defending the ball didn't take pride in defending," Bears coach Cuonzo Martin said. "That's what happened in the second half. It's that simple."

The game, featuring two of the Pac-12's best defensive teams, opened up following a slow first half when Miller burned a timeout less than 90 seconds in.

Arizona led 41-36 with 14 minutes remaining before Rabb sparked a mini-run that put California back in front. After the teams traded scores, Chance Comanche scored on a three-point play with 10:33 left that put Arizona ahead for good.

The Wildcats still had to hold off a late run by the Bears. Jabari Bird's 3-pointer pulled California within 66-62, and after a turnover near midcourt, Bird had a chance to pull the Bears closer but his 3-point attempt bounced off the front of the rim.

Bird finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.

The Bears used their conference-leading defense to set the tone in the first half when California's offense sputtered.

Nine days after limiting No. 12 Virginia to 22 points in the first half, the Bears limited the Wildcats to 26 and used a 15-0 run to take control.

Arizona had won five straight since losing to Gonzaga in the Naismith Hall of Fame game on Dec. 23.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: It was a lot closer than it probably should have been but the young Wildcats kept it together and made the game-changing run when they needed to. The offense wasn't sharp early but Miller's group responded in front of a hostile crowd on the road.

California: For the second consecutive game the Bears played a Top 25 team tight but couldn't finish the job. Martin's team continues to shine defensively, although the problems on the offensive end are making it tough.

MILLER'S 200th

The win was the 200th at Arizona for Miller. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the Wildcats coach embraced the milestone moment. "Any time as a coach you hit one of those it means something," said Miller, who is 200-63 at Arizona. "Being a college basketball coach isn't easy, especially in this day and age when from one season to the next so many things can change."

POLL IMPLICATIONS

As long as they can hold court against Stanford on Sunday there's no reason to think the Wildcats will lose any ground in the poll. There's a chance they could move up a few slots depending on what happens ahead of them, but for now Arizona's spot at 18 is secure.

UP NEXT

Arizona: Takes a short trip across the San Francisco Bay to play at Stanford on Sunday night.

California: Closes out its five-game homestand by hosting Arizona State on Sunday night at Haas Pavilion.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.

Redemption: Year after heartbreak, UNC outlasts Gonzaga to win title

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AP

Redemption: Year after heartbreak, UNC outlasts Gonzaga to win title

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's OK, Carolina, you can open your eyes.

An unwatchable game turned into a beautiful night for the Tar Heels, who turned a free-throw contest into a championship they've been waiting an entire year to celebrate.

Justin Jackson delivered the go-ahead 3-point play with 1:40 left Monday and North Carolina pulled away for a 71-65 win over Gonzaga that washed away a year's worth of heartache.

It was, in North Carolina's words, a redemption tour - filled with extra time on the practice court and the weight room, all fueled by a devastating loss in last year's title game on Kris Jenkins' 3-point dagger at the buzzer for Villanova.

"Just unreal that we get a second chance at this," junior Theo Pinson said, recounting a pre-game conversation with teammate Joel Berry II. "Not a lot of people can say they can do that. I told him, `We're about to take this thing. I'm about to give everything I got.' I knew he would, too, We just didn't want to come up short again."

But to say everything went right for Roy Williams' team at this Final Four would be less than the truth.

The Tar Heels (33-7) followed a terrible-shooting night in the semifinal with an equally ice-cold performance in the final - going 4 for 27 from 3-point land and 26 for 73 overall.

Gonzaga, helped by 8 straight points from Nigel Williams-Goss, took a 2-point lead with 1:52 left, but the next possession was the game-changer.

Jackson took a zinger of a pass under the basket from Pinson and converted the shot, then the ensuing free throw to take the lead for good. Moments later, Williams-Goss twisted an ankle and could not elevate for a jumper that would've given the Bulldogs the lead.

Isaiah Hicks made a basket to push the lead to 3, then Kennedy Meeks, in foul trouble all night (who wasn't?), blocked Williams-Goss' shot and Jackson got a slam on the other end to put some icing on title No. 6 for the Tar Heels.

Williams got his third championship, putting him one ahead of his mentor, Dean Smith, and now behind only John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp.

"I think of Coach Smith, there's no question," Williams said. "I don't think I should be mentioned in the same sentence with him. But we got three because I've got these guys with me and that's all I care about right now - my guys."

Berry recovered from ankle injuries to lead the Tar Heels, but needed 19 shots for his 22 points. Jackson had 16 but went 0 for 9 from 3. Overall, the Tar Heels actually shot a percentage point worse than they did in Saturday night's win over Oregon.

Thank goodness for free throws.

They went 15 for 26 from the line and, in many corners, this game will be remembered for these three men: Michael Stephens, Verne Harris and Mike Eades, the referees who called 27 fouls in the second half, completely busted up the flow of the game and sent Meeks, Gonzaga's 7-footers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, and a host of others to the bench in foul trouble.

The game "featured" 52 free throws. Both teams were in the bonus with 13 minutes left. Somehow, Collins was the only player to foul out.

Most bizarre sequence: With 8:02 left, Berry got called for a foul for (maybe) making contact with Karnowski and stripping the ball from the big man's hands. But as Karnowski was flailing after the ball, he inadvertently grabbed Berry around the neck. After a long delay, the refs called Karnowski for a flagrant foul of his own.

"I'm not going to talk about refs," Karnowski said. "It was just a physical game."

Zags coach Mark Few handled it with class, calling the refs "three of the best officials in the entire country," and insisting they did a fine job.

He might have wanted further review on the scrum with 50 seconds left. The refs were taking heat on social media for calling a held ball, which gave possession to the Tar Heels, on a pile-up underneath the Carolina basket. It set up the Hicks layup to put Carolina ahead by 3. One problem: Meeks' right hand looks to be very much touching out of bounds while he's trying to rip away the ball.

"That was probably on me," Few said. "From my angle, it didn't look like an out of bounds situation or I would have called a review. That's tough to hear."

The Bulldogs (37-2), the Cinderella-turned-Godzilla team from the small school in the West Coast Conference, tried to keep the big picture in mind. Twenty years ago, this sort of run at that sort of place looked virtually impossible. With less than 2 minutes left, they had the lead in the national title game.

"We broke the glass ceiling everyone said we couldn't break," junior forward Johnathan Williams said.

And North Carolina got over a hump that, at times this season, felt like a mountain.

"They wanted redemption," Williams said. "I put it on the locker room up on the board - one of the things we had to be tonight was tough enough. I think this group was tough enough tonight."