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Arizona vs. Cal: Wildcats eye second straight road win

Will the Wildcats return home with a Bay Area sweep?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The No.12 Arizona Wildcats ride a three-game winning streak into game two of their road trip in the Bay Area. After their 71-57 victory over Stanford, Sean Miller’s squad face a California Golden Bears team coming off a home victory against spit-flying Bobby Hurley and the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Thanks to an outstanding freshmen class, expectations were high for the Golden Bears early in the season, but the results so far have been little more than mediocre. They are 3-3 in the Pac-12 and 13-6 overall. Their win over the Sun Devils stopped a dreadful three-game losing streak, and they will look to capitalize on this much needed momentum.

WHO TO WATCH

However, this momentum may be hard to capitalize on after leading scorer Tyrone Wallace (15.4 PPG) was declared out for 4-6 weeks when he broke his right hand during practice over the weekend. He was also their best distributor (4.6 APG), and knew how to use his hands on defense (1.1 SPG). In the interim, Cal will rely on freshman forward Jaylen Brown. He helped stem a late surge by the Sun Devils when he scored five of his 17 points in the last couple minutes, and averages nearly 15 points and six rebounds.

6’11" freshman forward Ivan Rabb is the Golden Bears’ best rebounder at eight per game, and he puts up almost 13 points. He scored 20 against Arizona State to go along with eight rebounds and six assists. The good folks over at California Golden Blogs call him an "efficiency master", an apt label. He’s hungry, and the Golden Bears will also rely on him to remain aggressive in Wallace’s absence.

Junior guard Jordan Mathews is lethal from deep. He shoots 44% on the season and is 60% during his last three games. He averages just under 13 points per game. Fellow junior Sam Singer received more minutes against Arizona State in lieu of Wallace’s injury, and produced an all-around decent effort, notching six points, six rebounds, and eight assists.

Although the Golden Bears struggle to function cohesively on offense (tenth in the Pac-12 in assists), they harbor a defense that makes other teams uncomfortable. The Golden Bears boast the conference’s top scoring defense at 66.2 PPG, and they hold opponents’ field goal percentage to 37.8%, also best in the conference. As if those statistics weren’t enough, they are a perfect 12-0 on the season inside Haas Pavilion.

WHAT TO WATCH

All this talk about Parker Jackson-Cartwright’s improvement over his last couple games and how does he perform against Stanford? First, he played only 18 minutes due to foul trouble, and during those 18 minutes he missed a total of six shots. He also committed three turnovers.

Whereas PJC truly is an "enigma," and unpredictable at best, forward Mark Tollefsen has remained a reliable threat. He produced his third-straight double-digit game against Stanford while also blocking two shots, grabbing six rebounds, and dishing out four assists. Kadeem Allen was clutch even after leaving earlier in the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Ryan Anderson, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Gabe York have all been consistently good, and they will need to be so against California’s tough defense.

Now would be a very welcoming time for PJC to return to the stellar form we all know he is perfectly capable of executing. However, if he plays like he looks lost again, the Wildcats could need Justin Simon to step up. The 6’5" freshman guard’s best game was against Missouri when he produced ten points, four rebounds, and three steals in 16 minutes. Young and inexperienced, yes, but he bleeds enormous potential.

No. 12 Arizona and California tip off at 6:30 MT on ESPN.

Bill Walton Alert: Please be advised that Bill Walton will be providing the color commentary for this broadcast.