Cal's offensive punch too much for Arizona basketball
Wildcats drop game at home to Golden Bears, 77-69
The No. 7 Arizona men’s basketball team entered Sunday’s game at McKale Center with a chance to take control of the Pac-12. It exited with defensive questions and a 77-69 loss to California.
“We’ll all look in the mirror, including myself, [asking] what could we have done better,” head coach Sean Miller said. “We’ll watch this closely and move on. It’s tough to win every game, we’re 20-3.”
The Golden Bears’ Allen Crabbe couldn’t be contained, scoring 31 points, while grabbing seven boards and dishing out five assists. When it was all said and done, the Cal offense left the Wildcats gasping for air.
“30-for-51 (shooting) is about as big of a punch as you’re going to take as a defense,” Miller said.
“Our defense just had no answers for Cal’s excellence. They spread us out and did a great job.”
The astonishing field goal percentage (58.8 percent), as Miller described it, dropped Arizona (20-3, 8-3 Pac-12) into a three-way tie for the conference and halted the UA’s four-game win streak.
The Wildcats’ second home loss didn’t come without some drama, though.
They were up seven points with the ball and the clock winding down in the first half when freshman Brandon Ashley (12 points, 9 rebounds) turned the ball over and the Golden Bears capitalized with an uncontested, last-second layup.
“It’s those things [that hurt] in a game like tonight where everything matters,” Miller said.
The Wildcats still had a 38-33 halftime lead, but the advantage would be short-lived.
Cal (14-9, 6-5) continued to hit shots out of the break and it confused Arizona with a 3-2 zone defense. The Golden Bears outscored the UA 17-2 during a 4:30 minute stretch to start the second half, with Crabbe scoring 13 of the points.
“The first four minutes of the second half we took bad shots,” Miller said. “We had the deer in the headlights look against [the zone]. It was like a double-edged sword where they were knifing our defense and scoring every single possession and simultaneous to that we weren’t executing against their zone.”
Then, in the final minutes of the game, a corner 3-pointer by Mark Lyons (16 points) cut the deficit to just two. But the Wildcats hit a cold spell, missing their final six shots. Crabbe and his backcourt partner Justin Cobbs (21 points) closed the game out on a 6-0 run.
“We just let the zone affect us,” said senior Solomon Hill, who had 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting. “We were stagnant in the zone; We didn’t move or get the ball moving.”
Someone who usually helps break the zone is guard Kevin Parrom. But the senior had just seven points and was uncharacteristically sloppy in his role at the top of the key.
“I had three crucial turnovers and I usually don’t turn the ball over,” he said. “I think I could have played better in the middle of the zone, so I take that one for the team. But I got to get ready for the next game.”
Arizona shot 39.3 percent in the game, failing to find any easy looks against Cal. The Wildcat offense did have some bright spots, though. They had 13 assists to just nine turnovers, shot 50 percent (9-for-18) from three and had 24 free throws.
What really was the difference in the game was the backcourt duo of Crabbe and Cobb that combined to hit 20-of-29 shots and contribute 67.5 percent of the team’s total offense. Sophomore Nick Johnson (6-foot-3) was the defensive stopper this season. The taller Crabbe (6-foot-6) just proved to be too much.
Hill and Parrom both felt they should have switched over and taken the defensive responsibility of guarding Crabbe away from Johnson.
“We’re asking Nick to guard everybody’s best player,” Hill said, “but when the height advantage is like that, I definitely have to take more responsibility for guarding.”