No. 2 Arizona beats California 89-61 for 18th Pac-12 win
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Oumar Ballo scored 16 points, Bennedict Mathurin added 13 and No. 2 Arizona became the first Pac-12 team to win 18 conference games with an 89-61 win over California on Saturday.
The Wildcats (28-3, 18-2) shook off a sluggish first half to beat Stanford on Thursday but dominated the conference’s other Bay Area team early with a 19-2 run en route to a 17-point lead midway through the first half.
Arizona, which already clinched the regular-season conference title, shot 65% and scored 49 points in the paint to finish 17-0 at home in its first season under coach Tommy Lloyd. Pelle Larsson and Justin Kier also scored 13 each.
Cal (12-19, 5-15) played well for stretches, but couldn’t recover from Arizona’s big early run. Jordan Shepherd led the Bears with 16 points.
Arizona dominated the first meeting with Cal on Jan. 23, building a 14-point lead in the opening six minutes on the way to a 96-71 win. The rematch played out in similar fashion.
Creating transition opportunities with their defense and pounding the ball inside, the Wildcats reeled off a 19-2 run to build a 26-9 lead midway through the first half. Ballo had 11 points during the run, including three rim-shaking dunks.
Arizona cooled a bit down the stretch of the first half — one field goal over the final 4:20. But Mathurin made consecutive 3-pointers early in the second half and the Wildcats hit seven of their first 10 shots to stretch the lead to 66-46. Arizona shot 15 of 23 in the second half.
Cal had its worst offensive game of the season to kick off the final weekend of the regular season, having shot 31% in a 27-point loss to Arizona State on Thursday.
The Bears brought their offensive struggles down Interstate 10 to Tucson, clanging one shot after another early. Cal bounced back from Arizona’s big run and started hitting a few shots, closing with a 14-4 run to pull within 40-31 at halftime. Aside from a few more good offensive stretches in the second half, the Bears but couldn’t stop Arizona defensively.
California: Closes the season with four losses in five games. The Bears had some good stretches in one of college basketball’s toughest road venues, though, which could help them in the Pac-12 Tournament next week.
Arizona: Capped one of the best home seasons in Pac-12 history with a dominating performance. Now on to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament, where the Wildcats will be hoping to lock up a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
California: Opens the Pac-12 tournament Wednesday.
Arizona: The Wildcats are the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and have a first-round bye; the next game is Thursday’s quarterfinals against the Arizona State-Stanford winner.
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