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FINAL SCORE: Arizona 87, Cal 59. The No. 3 Wildcats (26-2, 12-3) hand the Bears (18-10, 9-6) their worst loss of the season, avenging their loss at Berkeley on Feb. 1 that knocked Arizona out of No. 1. Worst news for Cal: Freshman Jordan Mathews injured his left ankle or foot with 1:22 left.
After Stanford’s loss at Arizona State, there is now a four-way tie for third place, with Cal, ASU, Stanford and Colorado all 9-6.
Cobbs was Cal’s only player in double figures with 12 points, and he had merely an average game made worse by a technical foul. The Bears made 10 of their first 16 shots, then were 14 for 39 the rest of the way. They fell behind by 20 early in the second half, but got back to 55-47 when Tyrone Wallace made a 3-pointer with 12:20 left. Cal was outscored 32-12 the rest of the way.
Arizona clobbered the Bears on the boards, 42-25. Cal had 14 turnovers. The Bears shot 4 for 16 from the 3-point line. That’s a lot of bad there.
Nick Johnson, who had just four points in Berkeley, finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists. PG T.J. McConnell had 13 points and six assists. Aaron Gordon scored 13 points and made 5 of 6 FTs, earning big cheers from the McKale crowd that recalls him making just 2 of 11 in a recent game. And Rondae Hollis-Jefferson came off the bench to provide 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Arizona not only left no doubt it’s far superior to Cal, it made a strong argument it’s as good as any team in the country. ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi at halftime projected the Cats as the No. 1 overall seed into the NCAA tournament.
And Cal’s postseason prospects? Well, this doesn’t help, but the Bears probably still need to win just two of their remaining three regular-season games to be in good shape. A win at Arizona State on Saturday would be huge for them.
They’ll have to be substantially better than they were in this one.
HALFTIME SCORE: Arizona 44, Cal 29. The Bears led 8-2, then 14-13, but have been overwhelmed since. Arizona’s defense has forced nine turnovers, and the Cats used runs of 9-0 and 10-0 to pull away. Cal made 1o of its first 16 shots — 63 percent — and still trailed 29-22. Since then, the Bears are 3 for 12. Arizona has a 22-13 rebounding edge, in part because Richard Solomon picked up his third foul with 4:26 left and David Kravish got two early.
Nick Johnson, who scored just four points in the first meeting, already has 12. Freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has eight points and six rebounds off the bench. Solomon has seven points for the Bears while Feb. 1 hero Justin Cobbs is just 2 for 7 and has four points.
Gonna take something remarkable for the Bears to get back in this one.
GREETINGS: Sorry to report I am not in Tucson tonight. But we have a freelance writer who will provide us a story, and I will post notes at halftime and after the game.
Tipoff at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 with Bill Walton serving as analyst. Enjoy.