No. 3 Arizona out for revenge as Cal comes to town

No. 3 Arizona out for revenge as Cal comes to town
February 26, 2014, 10:45 am
Share This Post

Justin Cobbs and Cal (9-5) are tied for the third in the Pac-12 and hoping to finish in the top four to secure a first-round bye for the conference tournament. (AP)

Following consecutive road wins over opponents that had a combined 33-2 home record, Arizona looks to extend its own lengthy home winning streak.

To post a 20th straight victory in Tucson, the third-ranked Wildcats must beat the last opponent to win there and the one which recently spoiled the best start in school history as they face California on Wednesday night.

Following a 21-0 start, Arizona was handed its first loss Feb. 1 when Justin Cobbs hit a step-back jumper with 0.9 seconds left to give the Golden Bears a 60-58 win. It was the Bears' first victory over a top-ranked opponent since January 1994.

The defeat proved especially costly for the Wildcats (25-2, 12-2), who lost forward Brandon Ashley (11.5 points per game) to a season-ending foot injury. Gabe York has taken over Ashley's starting spot in the past two games, totaling 19 points and 14 rebounds.

"I believe we still can get better because we haven't had a lot of time playing without Brandon," coach Sean Miller said.

Those two games with York starting - which followed a 69-66 double-overtime loss at Arizona State on Feb. 14 - have seen Arizona pull off impressive road victories. The Wildcats won 67-63 in overtime last Wednesday over a Utah team that had won 17 of 18 at home, then they handed Colorado its second loss in 18 home games with an 88-61 rout Saturday.

"We learned a lot in the Arizona State game," said Miller, whose squad owns a two-game Pac-12 lead with four to play. "From that game on, I think we have a more clear direction of what our team needs to do to be the best we can."

Freshman Aaron Gordon shook off a career-worst three-point effort at Utah by posting 21 of his season-best 23 points in the second half Saturday. Nick Johnson added 20 points for the Wildcats, who made 22 of 26 shots after halftime.

Johnson, averaging a team-high 16.0 points, now hopes to put up a better performance against Cal after finishing with a season-low four points on 1-of-14 shooting in the first meeting. The Bears limited Arizona to 32.3 percent shooting, its worst mark in nearly three years.

The Wildcats, among the national leaders in defensive field-goal percentage (37.9) and points allowed (57.9 per game), will have to keep a close watch on Cobbs after he hurt them with 19 points in the first meeting.

The senior guard also scored 21 last February to help the Bears (18-9, 9-5) escape with a 77-69 win at then-No. 7 Arizona in the most recent meeting in Tucson. That was the last opponent to win at McKale Center, where the Wildcats have won 19 in a row by an average of 20.9 points.

Cobbs needs three assists to move past Jason Kidd into fourth on the program's career list. He led the way with 22 points Sunday as the Bears moved to 3-2 since knocking off Arizona with a 77-64 victory over USC.

Cal is tied for the third in the Pac-12 and is hoping to finish in the top four to secure a first-round bye for the conference tournament.

"I mean a lot of things can happen, and we just have to go out and win every game we can and put ourselves in the best position at the end of the night," said starting guard Ricky Kreklow, who missed the first meeting due to injury.

The Bears have won three straight road games against ranked opponents dating to last season.