Let it roll on.
The Arizona Wildcats got a taste for blood last weekend in a rout of the Colorado Buffaloes, and in returning home to play the Cal Golden Bears, they looked like they knew how to draw blood in an 87-59 win.
Like it was last week, the Wildcats made a case for being the big fish in a pond full of little ones. California looked overmatched but it was also a looseness that Arizona played with that put it over the top. Nick Johnson was the star of the show, scoring 22 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dolling out five dimes.
The Golden Bears opened up looking confident, getting easy shots early on and holding Arizona to single shot attempt per possession. An 8-2 lead for Cal early on was cut to 14-13 before a 9-0 burst for the Wildcats that included dunks from each of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Aaron Gordon and Johnson.
The run was impressive, but a single play later in the first half was the sledgehammer to any thought lingering in the Golden Bears' minds that they'd had a game on their hands.
The sequence of the game started with Cobbs, the hero in Cal's 60-58 win over Arizona on Feb. 1, blowing by Johnson with a clear path to the hoop. Johnson didn't slouch and recovered to trail Cobbs to the rim, where he met a lay-in attempt with a block. The Arizona guard then led the break, took his time by stopping at the free throw line, as he should, and then dumped it off to Hollis-Jefferson for another slam.
Arizona led 53-33 just four minutes into the second half, and Cal put in one last-ditch 14-2 streak that briefly cut the difference to single-digits. The Wildcats hit a few jumpers to quell any concerns over a monumental comeback, and that was that.
Kaleb Tarczewski scored 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, showing a full array of moves. At one point, he picked up a loose ball in the paint and stepped in with an up-and-under move off the glass. Along the baseline on another play, he tip-toed the baseline for a reverse lay-up. He even stepped out along the left baseline and drilled an 18-foot jumper in the first half.
Gordon added 13 points without forcing it, and T.J. McConnell scored 13 and dished out six assists. Most importantly, he did a fine job defending Cobbs, who scored 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting.
On the night, California hit 43.6 percent of its shots and went 4-for-16 from three-point land. Mike Montgomery's squad had just 10 assists to 13 turnovers. Arizona meanwhile had an exact 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio with 18 dimes and nine giveaways.
Sean Miller might still be looking for support. Gabe York and Elliott Pitts each hit a single three-pointer, though York contributed in other ways, adding five assists and four rebounds. Hollis-Jefferson made the biggest mark off the bench, putting up a 12-point, 10-assist double-double while scoring in transition and with his usual slashing to the hoop.
The light is at the end of the regular season tunnel for the Wildcats. They see their goal is only to play in the moment, to play with all the defensive principles that's gotten them this far, and allow the chips to fall where they may. At this point, the chips are undoubtedly going to swing heavily in Arizona's favor, especially if teams fail to attack it in hopes of getting the Wildcats in foul trouble.