GAME NOTES: The seventh-ranked Arizona Wildcats will try to maintain their hold on the top spot in the Pac-12 when they host the California Golden Bears in a conference battle at the McKale Center.
This is the second straight game in the Grand Canyon State for California which was narrowly edged, 66-62, by Arizona State on Thursday. The loss ended a brief two-game winning streak for California which is now 13-9 overall while an even 5-5 in league play. The Golden Bears, who are 3-5 on the road, return home to host UCLA next.
As for Arizona it handed Stanford a 73-66 defeat in the first leg of this two- game homestand. The Wildcats are an impressive 20-2 overall this season and at 8-2 in league action, have a one-game lead on Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA, for first place in the league standings. Arizona is 11-1 at the McKale Center so far but road matchups against Colorado and Utah follow this one.
With wins in three of the last four meetings, including a series sweep a year ago, Arizona has increased its all-time series lead to 55-28.
Despite shooting a solid 47.1 percent from the field against Arizona State, California was unable to pull off the upset on Thursday. The Golden Bears turned the ball over 18 times in the contest though they did collect 13 steals as a team.
The Golden Bears have been putting more pressure on squads defensively of late with 60 steals in the last five games after having 77 through the first 17. Overall California is holding teams to 65.3 points per game on 40.8 percent shooting. California counters that by scoring 67.8 points per game itself while hitting 44.2 percent of its shots from the floor. The Golden Bears are fortunate to employ the services of Pac-12 leading scorer Allen Crabbe (19.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg). Justin Cobbs (14.3ppg, 4.3 apg) is the second option as well as the team's leading distributor. Cobbs ranks fourth in the league in assists. No other player is averaging in double figures though Tyrone Wallace (7.3 ppg) is coming off a career-high matching 16 points against Arizona State.
Led by a season-high 25 points from Mark Lyons and 23 points from Solomon Hill the Wildcats held off the Cardinal last time out. The Wildcats secured the win with their strong play in the second half when they shot 60 percent from the field and hit 14-of-18 attempts at the free-throw line.
Lyons (15.4 ppg) and Hill (14.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) have made a habit of carrying the Wildcats on the offensive end of the ball. Lyons has been especially strong after transferring from Xavier as he has scored 20 or more points in each of the last two games and six times overall this season. Nick Johnson (12.5 ppg) is the third and final member of the squad averaging double figures. Led by the trio, the Wildcats have been the second-best scoring team in the Pac-12, netting 74.7 points per game, while connecting on 45.1 percent of their shots from the field. Arizona is also a solid defensive unit as it holds foes to 61.9 points per game, while teams have been shooting just under 40 percent from the field.
Other than a hiccup against UCLA, Arizona has been untouchable at home and that should continue again on Sunday.