Not in their house: Arizona Wildcats rout Cal
Arizona continued its recent lethal offensive attack Wednesday night in McKale Center.
The No. 3 Wildcats’ (26-2, 13-2 Pac-12 Conference) sturdy defensive motor overpowered California (18-10, 9-6 Pac-12) 87-59.
For the second game in a row, three or more Arizona players had more than 10 points — five players scored in double digits against the Golden Bears.
“You could make the case that our game at Colorado and tonight’s game might have been the best back-to-back games that we’ve played,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said.
Junior guard Nick Johnson jumps for a shot during Arizona's game against California on Wednesday in McKale Center. The Wildcats beat the Golden Bears by 28 points.
When the Wildcats defeated Colorado by 27 points in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, it was the first time since 1973 that they defeated the Buffaloes on the road.
“One of the things that’s happening is that our offense is continuing to develop,” Miller said. “I don’t think we have a bunch of shooters that are hot, as much as that we’re playing well together.”
Miller explained that the team is using its defense to create steals and fast break opportunities.
Arizona junior guard Nick Johnson experienced his worst offense game of the year during Arizona’s 60-58 loss at Cal on Feb. 1. He went 1-for-14 from the field and was a shadow of his usual self, scoring a season-low four points.
Wednesday, Johnson redeemed himself by being at the forefront of the Wildcats’ offensive onslaught. Johnson had 22 points and shot with 50 percent accuracy from the field while collecting seven rebounds and five assists.
“Nick was a dominant performer tonight,” Miller said. “He knew he didn’t shoot the ball well at Cal, but he is playing right now as well as he has all season. Even during his four to five games where he wasn’t shooting the ball well, he was doing a lot of other things well. Now that Nick is shooting well again, he’s picking up where he left off.”
California had no answer for Arizona’s tenacity.
“We played well in spurts; we just got killed on the boards 42-25,” California head coach Mike Montgomery said. “That’s tough. They got a lot of rebounds and a lot of put backs, second shots and second opportunities. The rebounding was as much a factor as anything.”
Sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski also joined in on the offensive party. He finished with 16 points, two shy of his single-game career high.
“I’m getting more comfortable out there, and my teammates are getting me the ball in scoring position, which is huge because it makes my job a lot easier,” Tarczewski said. “It’s good to know that [the team] has confidence in me.”
The Wildcats’ assist-to-turnover ratio has been one of the leading factors to the impressive offensive. Arizona finished with 18 assists and showed unselfish play, which will only further its offense.
Wildcats point guard T.J. McConnell has dished out 22 assists and just one turnover over the past three games. He gave up six turnovers in Arizona’s loss to ASU on Feb. 14.
“We’re just trying to win the league championship right now, and we have to take it game by game,” Johnson said. “It feels good, but we need to stay in our defensive groove.”
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17