No. 19 Arizona pulls away late to beat Cal 66-54 on Senior Night
7:04 PM, Mar 3, 2018
7:03 PM, Mar 3, 2018
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Deandre Ayton had 26 points and 20 rebounds, helping No. 19 Arizona clinch the Pac-12 regular-season title outright with a 66-54 victory over California on Saturday night.
Arizona (24-7, 14-4) had the title in its sights for its seniors' final home game. Instead of rolling against the Pac-12's last-place team, the Wildcats had a hard time shaking the Bears (8-23, 2-16).
Arizona closed the game with a 13-1 run, finishing off its fifth Pac-12 title in six seasons in the final home game for seniors Dusan Ristic, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Keanu Pinder.
Allonzo Trier, Arizona's second-leading scorer, had a rough final home game of the 2017-18 season, finishing with two points on 1-of-10 shooting, including 0 for 7 on 3-pointers.
Cal bounced back from a disappointing first game on the road trip through the desert, keeping the Wildcats within reach until the final 3 minutes.
Justice Seung had 17 points to lead the Bears, who ended the regular season with seven straight losses.
Arizona had a tumultuous week, starting with an ESPN report that coach Sean Miller was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to Ayton to attend the school.
Miller did not coach in an overtime loss to Oregon last Saturday and missed the first three days of practice this week while Arizona officials sorted out what to do. Miller made a statement on Thursday to vehemently deny the report and, a few hours later, university Robert C. Robbins announced Miller he remain as coach.
Miller received a standing ovation before Arizona played Stanford later that night and the Wildcats clinched a share of the Pac-12 title with a 75-67 win over the Cardinal.
Cal held its own against the Wildcats in the first half by getting good penetration off the dribble, something it didn't do in a lopsided loss to Arizona State on Thursday. The Bears took a 17-16 lead with a 7-0 run and rallied from 11 down to pull within 38-35 at halftime on Don Coleman's lean-in 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Both teams shot well in the first half. Neither did to start the second, including with a combined scoreless streak that stretched past 4 minutes.
The Bears used a slowed-down game to their advantage keeping Arizona within reach until the Wildcats pieced together a 6-0 run to go up 61-53 with 2 1/2 minutes left.
Cal bounced back nicely from its 31-point loss to Arizona State with a solid performance that should give it a boost headed into next week's Pac-12 Tournament.
Arizona looked lackluster at times against the Pac-12's last-place team on a night when it should have been motivated to send its seniors off in a blowout. The Wildcats found a way to close it out, earning the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
Arizona has a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas and will play on Thursday.
Cal opens the Pac-12 Tournament Wednesday as the No. 12 seed.