It wasn’t always pretty but the outcome was all the same: another convincing Arizona win over an inferior conference opponent.
The fourth-ranked Wildcats overcame a streaky scoring outing to knock off the Cal Golden Bears 85-62 at Haas Pavilion, the seventh straight win for the UA (22-3, 11-3 Pac-12).
Azuolas Tubelis displayed his usual dominance with a 23-point, 14-rebound double-double, while Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Cedric Henderson Jr. each knocked down a trio of 3-pointers.
Despite shooting a respectable 50.7% from the field, Arizona’s offense felt like it lacked a spark at times, namely in the form of Kerr Kriisa.
Arizona’s junior point guard, who had been hot shooting the ball of late, went 0-7 from the field with 0 points but had eight assists and only one turnover.
Kriisa’s off scoring night was attributed to a sickness he developed last weekend, Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said postgame.
The Wildcats also struggled from the free-throw line, making only 6 of 17 attempts. Larsson entered the game with 35 consecutive made free throws, four off the school record set by Salim Stoudamire, but went 1 for 3 from the charity stripe.
Larsson made up for his missed free throws from the rest of the court, going 6 of 7 for 16 points. Oumar Ballo added 14, while Henderson Jr. and Boswell ended in double figures with 11 and 10 apiece.
Arizona’s size expectedly overwhelmed Cal down low. The Wildcats outrebounded the Golden Bears 45-30 including 15 offensive boards, which led to a 27-3 advantage on 2nd-chance points.
Even with control of the paint and 11 made 3-pointers, Arizona struggled to put the game away until late.
Leading 44-32 at half, Arizona let the Golden Bears trim the deficit down to 56-47 with 15 minutes to go, when the Wildcats put the clamps down defensively.
Over the next six minutes, Cal was held without a field goal while Arizona itself struggled to buy a basket.
With a 65-50 advantage and under eight minutes remaining, Tubelis went on a tear, scoring six of Arizona’s next eight points. A Boswell 3-pointer with 3:34 remaining gave Arizona a 78-55 advantage, at last putting the game out of reach.
From the early going, it looked like the UA wouldn’t have much trouble scoring.
Arizona got out to a quick 11-1 start, holding Cal to without a field goal for the game’s first five minutes.
The Wildcats expanded the deficit to 21-6 through eight minutes, knocking down four of their first eight 3-pointers. Arizona’s perimeter shooting cooled considerably, however, allowing Cal to cut the margin to single digits before the UA grew the lead to a dozen points heading into half.
Arizona finishes the Bay Area road trip with a 6 p.m. MT tip at Stanford Saturday. This is the lone regular-season matchup between the Wildcats and Cardinal, which fell 69-65 to ASU Thursday.