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Arizona men’s basketball rolls over California behind Christian Koloko double-double

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

No Tubelis, no problem.

Christian Koloko had a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double and Pelle Larsson scored nine points in his first start in place of an injured Azuolas Tubelis to lead third-ranked Arizona to a 96-71 win at California on Sunday afternoon.

Koloko was one of five UA players to score in double figures as the Wildcats overwhelmed the Golden Bears with their size, strength and shooting. Oumar Ballo and Benn Mathurin each scored 14 points, Kerr Kriisa sprinkled in 13 on a team-high four three-pointers and Justin Kier added 10.

Arizona (16-1, 6-0 Pac-12) hardly missed a beat without Tubelis, who watched the game from the bench while not wearing a boot. Tubelis, out with an ankle injury he suffered against Stanford on Thursday, did not participate in the UA’s pregame warmups, according to Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe.

With the win, the Wildcats improved to their best start since the 2013-14 season (21-0) and all but assured a top-three ranking for their Tuesday night tangle with UCLA in Los Angeles.

Larsson and Ballo played 40 combined minutes in Tubelis’ absence and gave Arizona the aggressive touch it needed inside. The duo scored 10 of Arizona’s 23 made free throws on 28 attempts.

It was Koloko who most caused Cal’s defense fits, though, making nine of his 13 field goal attempts. Six of Koloko’s 13 rebounds came on the offensive end.

Arizona outrebounded Cal 46-37. The Wildcats had 14 assists to eight turnovers and shot 48% from the field, including 41% from behind the arc (11-27).

The UA jumped out to a quick 19-5 lead in the game’s first seven minutes and never let Cal back within single digits. The biggest drama in the first half came on a hard foul against Kier, who landed awkwardly on his left wrist. Kier would return to the game with the wrist taped.

Arizona went into halftime up 48-27 on 15-31 field goals.

Cal’s shooting picked up the second half but by then the game was out of reach for the home team. Jordan Shepherd led the Golden Bears with 21 points on 7-19 shooting.

Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd subbed in freshmen Shane Nowell and Adama Bal late in the second half, and both guards got in on the scoring. Bal and Nowell each scored five points including a made three-pointer. For Nowell, the three-pointer was the first of his career.

Attention now turns to the showdown with UCLA and whether Tubelis will be available. Tip-off at is Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. MST.