BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Arizona is long past last season’s devastating defeat in Berkeley. The Wildcats are on to bigger and better things now, and they’re enjoying every step of the way.
Stanley Johnson had 19 points and nine rebounds, Dusan Ristic scored 12 points and No. 7 Arizona avenged last season’s loss in Berkeley by crushing California 73-50 on Saturday night.
“We want to put ourselves in the best position to be a No. 1 seed in the tournament,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we can drop any more games on the road or at home. So we’re going to try to do our best. I think we’re getting better every day, every shootaround. We’re going to try and run it out.”
So far, so good.
The Wildcats (18-2, 6-1 Pac-12) overcame early foul trouble to their frontcourt to finish the first half ahead by 10. They came out of the break with another big burst, going ahead by 24 points and cruising to their fourth consecutive win, including at Stanford on Thursday to start a Bay Area sweep.
It was a small slice of redemption for Arizona after Cal upset the top-ranked and undefeated Wildcats 60-58 on Justin Cobbs’ last-second shot a season ago at Haas Pavilion. Arizona also lost forward Brandon Ashley for the season in the game when he injured his right foot.
Wildcats coach Sean Miller said he could notice an extra bounce in his players’ steps from the start.
“I was excited about our effort level,” Miller said. “We were really a team that gave everything we had.”
The Golden Bears (11-9, 1-6) are far from the team they were a year ago. They’ve lost six straight and eight of nine games, falling into last place in the conference.
Jordan Mathews scored 16 points, and David Kravish had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Bears, who lacked the bodies to match up against a deep and talented Arizona team.
The Wildcats outshot the Bears 49 to 43 percent and outrebounded them 31 to 25. They also showed off their depth, outscoring Cal’s bench 24-0.
“We just have to find a flow,” Kravish said. “We hit it in spurts, but once we find that flow and we start playing well on the offensive end it’ll be really good.”
Unfortunately for the Bears, it hasn’t happened in a while.
Cal was coming off an embarrassing 79-44 home loss to Arizona State — the second-worst home loss in school history — on Thursday in a battle of last-place teams in the conference. Miller still warned his team not to take the Bears lightly, especially with what happened here last year.
Cal could hardly run its offense in the opening minutes as Arizona’s smothering defense disrupted plays before they ever took shape. The Wildcats, though, had their share of miscues, including five consecutive turnovers that stalled their momentum.
Center Kaleb Tarczewski and Ashley also sat out much of the first half in foul trouble.
The Bears briefly took the lead before Arizona regrouped, putting together a 14-2 run over the final four minutes of the half sparked by their defense. The Wildcats led 29-19 at the break and moved ahead 42-25 early in the second half.
Wildcats fans took over from there, too, with chants of “U-of-A!” that drowned out the home crowd.
Ashley, a San Francisco native, said he didn’t really think about last year’s season-ending injury in Berkeley. He looked at the spot where he got hurt and then put it behind him. He finished with six points and two rebounds in 19 minutes.
FACES IN THE CROWD
About 19 people representing 15 NBA franchises were credentialed for the game, which was part of Coaches vs. Cancer week with coaches sporting sneakers and suits. Golden State Warriors coach and former Wildcats standout Steve Kerr also was in attendance along with most of his coaching staff. Kerr’s daughter, Maddy, is a sophomore on Cal’s volleyball team.
Also spotted in the crowd was Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin, former Arizona coach Lute Olson and NBA player Tayshaun Prince, whose Boston Celtics play the Warriors on Sunday.
Arizona: The Wildcats improved to 6-5 in their last 11 games against Cal.
Cal: Kravish blocked one shot to match Michael Stewart’s school record of 207 blocks from 1994-97. Kravish is one of four players in Pac-12 history with at least 1,000 points, 800 rebounds and 200 blocks.
Arizona: Host Oregon on Wednesday.
Cal: At Washington State on Thursday.
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