It was another close contest in McKale Center for the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday night, but for the second time in three days, Arizona came out with the hard-fought victory.
The Wildcats took down the California Golden Bears by a score of 62-57, improving Arizona’s Pac-12 record to 12-1, keeping the team in first place by itself. Arizona is also 23-3 overall on the season.
The Wildcats led this game for 34 minutes, but never extended the lead to more than 11 at any point. It was a close game the whole way, but Cal was just never able to get over the edge.
Here are some of the main takeaways from the game:
Track and Field Goals
Arizona was finally able to get some transition points in this game, something that had been lacking in recent contests. They outscored Cal 6-0 in this department, and in a tight game like this one, those six points were critical.
The Wildcats are still struggling with their half court offense overall, so if the defense is able to breed some points going the other way on occasion, that will at least give this team a little bit of breathing room it wouldn’t have otherwise.
Lauri Markkanen picked up two early fouls, bringing Chance Comanche and Keanu Pinder off the bench early. The two of them responded with a man’s dunk and a hook shot, respectively, in their first couple of minutes.
Not even halfway through the first half, Allonzo Trier picked up his second foul, and Ivan Rabb picked up his a couple seconds later. This game was missing the three best players for a huge amount of time before the break.
Throughout the entirety of the game, Trier was beat off the dribble, something that Sean Miller had lamented after Wednesday’s win against Stanford. It happened more often than not on Saturday, and should be something to watch as the Cats move through the final part of the regular season and into March.
Oh yeah, he didn’t score any points from the field (0-of-5) either. And had three turnovers to just two assists. He did get three late free throws.
Markkanen’s night wasn’t much better, finishing with just six points in 22 minutes. He was 1-of-3 from three, and 1-of-5 overall from the field. He also had just four rebounds. Only once in his last five games has Markkanen recorded more than six rebounds (OSU - 9). He’s also failed to record more than eight points in each of his last four contests.
Also of note, Charlie Moore suffered a hip injury and did not play in the second half. He played 12 minutes in the first half, scored two points and had two assists. Ivan Rabb only had four points and four rebounds.
Not so offensive rebounding
One other thing that Miller harped on after Wednesday was Arizona’s inability to defensive rebound.
Well, that message got through to the team, as Cal was only able to pull down four offensive boards in this one, resulting in four second chance points.
Arizona wasn’t able to capitalize on its offensive rebounds though, securing 11 and only getting six second chance points off of them. It’s also interesting that no Arizona player was able to secure more than five rebounds in this one. The interior guys are still struggling in an area where they’re needed.
Protecting the ball
Arizona only had one turnover in the first half compared to nine team assists. Kadeem Allen and Kobi Simmons each recorded three of those assists. It also led to Arizona having six more field goal attempts (27-21) than Cal in the first half, which also helped get the nine point lead before going into the locker room.
The Wildcats had three turnovers before the first media timeout of the second half, and ended up with ten in the game. Some of the turnovers in the second half were just poor decisions that we haven’t seen from Arizona really all year as far as trying to thread the needle where it couldn’t be threaded.
One stat that sticks out to me is the difference in shooting percentage between halves for the Wildcats, but not the Bears. Arizona shot 51.9 percent in the first half, but just 34.8 percent in the second half.
On the flip side, Cal was 42.9 percent in the first half and 44 percent in the second half.
Arizona is back in action on Thursday at Washington State. That game is scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m. MST on Fox Sports 1.