Cats Come Up Short vs Cal 77-69
In a week where black was white and the word upset was repeatedly thrown around, No. 7 Arizona losing at home to an unranked Cal team was almost predictable. But the rash of top teams falling doesn’t excuse the Cats’ second half collapse in a 77-69 defeat.
Despite holding a nine point lead with two minutes to go in the first period of play, Arizona could never shut the door on the Bears.
Clutch shots were matched with poor decision making against Cal’s mystifying zone and the Cats couldn’t stop Allen Crabbe, who went off for 31 points on 12-15 attempts from the field.
Cal went on a 16-2 run to begin the second half, digging Arizona a hole which it would never climb out of.
“It was like a double-edged sword,” said Sean Miller. “They were knifing our defense and scoring every possession.”
Mark Lyons led Arizona with 16 points but he, just like everyone else on the team, became puzzled when Mike Montgomery introduced the zone, something the Cats were clearly unprepared for.
Solomon Hill also struggled to find his normal rhythm against the zone.
“They dictated our pace," said the senior forward. “That’s just cause and effect. In the second half, they started off with it and we didn’t move the ball well enough to get good shots.”
The easy way to justify the loss is that Cal shot an extraordinarily high percentage from the field. But this far in the season, that just won’t do. Not when Arizona was a win away from being back in the top 5.
However, Miller was adamant that the Cats changing to a zone defense themselves wouldn’t have been a difference maker. “We’re 20-2 playing the way we play. When you’re in a single possession game, you really need just that one stop or back-to-back stops and the game would be tied.”
Those stops never came.