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Arizona swarms Cal defensively in blowout win

Photo by Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics

In case of emergency, break glass and play Cal.

Following a disappointing performance against Stanford, one in which coach Sean Miller felt his team lacked energy, the Arizona Wildcats clicked on nearly all cylinders in a 71-50 win over Cal on Saturday afternoon at McKale Center.

Arizona (13-4, 7-4 Pac-12) led from wire to wire by combining strong defense with solid rebounding and a balanced scoring attack to improve to 3-3 in home conference games and avoid a second weekend home sweep after falling Thursday to Stanford.

The Wildcats had a 34-18 edge in points in the paint, a complete 180 from the Stanford game when they were outscored 34-14 inside. They forced Cal (7-12, 2-10) into 16 turnovers, converting those into 15 points, while only turning it over 12 times after a season-high 18 giveaways on Thursday.

Northern California native James Akinjo, who had six of those turnovers against Stanford, finished with 20 points and eight assists and zero turnovers.

Arizona shot 51.9 percent, making 6 of 13 3-pointers, and held Cal to 38.3 percent shooting overall.

The Wildcats held a 33-23 edge on the boards, remaining one of two Division I teams (the other is Utah State) not to be outrebounded this season. The top rebounders were Azuolas Tubelis, Christian Koloko and Ira Lee who each had six, with Tubelis adding 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting after going 1 for 9 against Stanford.

Jordan Brown had 12 points off the bench while Bennedict Mathurin added 10 with a pair of 3-pointers in his return to the starting lineup.

Arizona led 37-22 at the half and got the margin over 20 thanks to a 14-2 run to lead 55-30 with 11:54 left. Cal missed nine straight shots at one point, after beginning the game 2 for 12, while the Wildcats didn’t have more than two consecutive misses until the final 10 minutes of play.

The last eight minutes of the game, though, were similar to those against Stanford and Monday’s home win over ASU. The Wildcats looked worn down and became sloppy, turning it over five times in the final six minutes while getting outscored 14-9, and in the past three games they’ve been outscored 59-35 after the under-8 timeout.

The Wildcats held Cal scoreless for nearly five and a half minutes to start the game but only led 6-0, but later an 8-0 run put them up 21-7 and they maintained at least a 12-point lead throughout the first half.

Arizona converted nine first-half Cal turnovers into nine points and had an 18-4 edge in points in the paint.

It was the ninth straight win for the Wildcats over the Bears, beating them by an average of 19.2 points over the last six matchups.

Arizona returns to action Thursday at Utah, which rallied from 19 points down to win at Colorado on Saturday. The game is expected to mark the debut of freshman point guard Kerr Kriisa.