Already at 3-0 in conference play and on a five-game winning streak, the Arizona Wildcats picked up an easy win to improve both marks, crushing the California Golden Bears, 87-65.
Cal has been the bottom-dweller of the conference of late, and the result was no surprise, though the margin was impressive.
Our recap can be read here, and here are some positive and negative takeaways from the ‘Cats victory:
We’ve known for a long time that Jeter is better than the disappointing blue-chipper he was at Duke. And while Cal is not a good team, seeing Jeter continue to play well is always a great sign.
The big man finished with a career-high 23 points and 9 rebounds, which would’ve surely turned into a double-double had he not been subbed out in the middle of the second half with the game out of hand.
He was simply red-hot, going 8 for 11 from the field and 7 for 8 from the stripe. Even better, Jeter stayed out of foul trouble, a nice change from the first three conference games.
If your big man makes 88 percent of his foul shots, chances are the team as a whole will perform well from the line, too. That proved to be the case in Berkeley, as UA went 15 for 17 from the stripe, with no player missing more than one.
Jeter was obviously the highlight, shooting nearly half the team’s attempts and netting all but one. Still, Justin Coleman, Emmanuel Akot, and Brandon Randolph all had trips to the free throw line. Coleman missed one of four while the others were perfect.
As I mentioned after the Stanford game, free throw percentages in the high 80s aren’t sustainable, but Arizona will have the edge in close contests so long as it continues.
Experience for Bench Players
All throughout the non-conference season, I languished the lack of playing time for the majority of the team’s reserves. It might have taken a blowout to turn that around, but giving those bench players game experience could be vital come March.
Ryan Luther, Dylan Smith, and Ira Lee have seen the court a fair amount this year, and they were part of the platoon that closed out the game. It was very nice to see Alex Barcello and Devonaire Doutrive, who have seemingly been ghosts this year, in the game in the late goings.
In all, the backups scored 17 points on 44 percent shooting, keeping Arizona’s lead solidly in the 20s for almost a quarter of the game.
Another Slow Start
It’s hard to find fault with anything Arizona did after about the five-minute mark in the first half. Before that though, Arizona and Cal looked almost like equals, and that is certainly not a compliment for the Wildcats.
The Bears remained in striking distance despite their slow start, and it took Arizona almost 15 minutes to score 25 points. Once they hit that barrier though, the Wildcats found their groove and outclassed California the rest of the night, picking apart whatever defensive alignment they threw out there.
Arizona has had a lot of issues in the first half all season, and against stronger teams, maybe even the Oregon squads they host this week, slow starts could come back to hurt them in a big way.
Lots of Fouls...Again
Speaking of recurring issues, the team committed quite a few needless fouls, tallying 20 on the night, as Cal had no trouble getting into the bonus in both halves.
The starters struggled with that as usual, with Akot and Randolph both picking up four in an abbreviated night. Perhaps more concerning was the fact that all five non-starters who closed the game committed at least one foul, with Barcello committing two on limited action.
Fouls are part of the game, but with Arizona usually playing in so many close games, all those resulting free throws could wind up being costly. The Bears took 24.
False Sense of Security?
This is a massive stretch, since there isn’t too much to feel bad about outside that first half. Still, with a young team, maybe there should be a tiny bit of concern that dominating a team on the road will make this team a bit overconfident heading into home games against Oregon and Oregon State.
There are still a few solid teams in the Pac-12 this year, namely a Washington squad also undefeated in conference play, and this team needs to be on its A-game to beat those squads and make the NCAA Tournament. Overconfidence could trip them up.