Wildcats handle Cal to complete rare sweep
How sweep it is.
Yes, it was that big for seventh-ranked Arizona now that it completed a Bay Area sweep on Saturday night with a 73-50 beating of California.
Despite being one of the more dominant teams the last two years, Arizona had managed just three road sweeps in nine trips around the Pac-12 Conference. Arizona now has four after beating Stanford on Thursday and California deep into Saturday night. Arizona is 18-2 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12.
Arizona didn’t look like the disjointed team it had at times this season for most of the past three-to-four games. And outside of Saturday’s first 10 minutes, Arizona played — again — some of its best team basketball. And it got help from nearly everyone.
Freshman Stanley Johnson once again led the way with 18 points. He added nine rebounds. He’s coming off a conference player of the week award and could get another after netting 37 points and 16 rebounds in Arizona’s sweep.
"Watching Stanley’s progression (and) process has made all of us proud," Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson said on the postgame radio show. "We know he can score but if you look at Stanley he’s starting to defend, starting to rebound. He’s being a basketball player and fulfilling a promise from coach Miller that he’ll get him better in the time (he is) here."
But it was more than just Johnson.
Junior center Kaleb Tarczewski had one of his better offensive games, scoring 10 points. Reserve guard Gabe York added six rebounds. And Arizona got a big performance from freshman center Dusan Ristic, who finished with a season-high 12 points, including a 3-pointer.
In consecutive games, Arizona’s bench was beyond belief. It scored 24 points and added 10 rebounds. The reserves scored 50 points in the last two games.
"It’s always been the next-man-in mentality," Richardson said. "Dusan Ristic … it may have been his best game, at least offensively and defensively in putting a whole game together. We had a problem scoring (early) and he hits a 3."
Pick a category and Arizona won it: rebounds (24-18), field goal percentage (49-43 percent), steals (4-2) and turnovers (14-19). And Arizona, a team that has gradually become better at free throw shooting, hit 23 of 26 on Saturday. It outscored Cal 23-1 from the free throw line.
"I think we’re focused," Richardson said. "The Cal crowd was tremendous; the student section was tremendous. We know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot. It’s their Super Bowl. It’s their opportunity to beat the whatever-ranked team in the country. Everyone can right their wrong. We are used to it."
The game also marked the return of junior Brandon Ashley. It turned out to be bitter sweet in that he fouled out with six points. Last year, it was in Haas pavilion where he suffered a season-ending foot injury.
It was a sluggish start for both teams, but Arizona was able to pull away in the first half’s final minutes by outscoring Cal 14-2 in the final four minutes to take a 29-lead.
California could only get to within eight the rest of the way after scoring the first basket of the second half.