Arizona Basketball Prevails over the California Bears 62-57

The Arizona Basketball team looked to continue their home winning streak and stay a top the Pac-12 with a win over the California Bears.

It was a defensive battle right out the gates! Both teams started the game slow on offense, and stars on both teams got in early foul trouble. The Arizona Basketball team was able to scratch and crawl there way to a victory over the Bears 62-57, lead by Kobi Simmons coming off the bench with 13 points.

With this win they were able to extend their home win streak to 20 games and keep their one-game lead over the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 rankings. Plus, this win will bring them much closer to solidifying a top seed in March Madness.

Arizona Wildcats were looking to overcome their slow starts and improve their overall rebounding, which was a key point of emphasis with coach Sean Miller, after Wednesday night’s rebound performance against the Stanford Cardinals. They finished with a 32-24 total rebounding edge against the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the Pac-12, which is definitely a huge improvement for the Wildcats from previous games.

The Bears headed into Saturday night’s game with a 5-game win steak and had planned to keep their NCAA tourney hopes alive. However with the loss, they will now need to finish the Pac-12 season strong and make a deep run in the conference tournament for any chance to make it to the Big Dance.

Feb 11, 2017; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats center Chance Comanche (21) dunks the ball during the second half against the California Golden Bears at McKale Center. Arizona won 62-57. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 11, 2017; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats center Chance Comanche (21) dunks the ball during the second half against the California Golden Bears at McKale Center. Arizona won 62-57. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Last time these two teams met in Haas Pavilion, it was a close one with the Cats holding off the Bears 67-62. Ivan Rabb and his supporting staff were hoping to use that game as a confidence booster knowing they could stay with the No. 9 ranked team in the country.

Before the game started, Arizona Basketball paid tribute to the Arizona Wildcats former star, Sean Rooks, who passed away in June. It was his son’s and California Bears center, Kameron Rooks’s, first time visit back to McKale Center since his father’s passing. Certainly an emotional moment for both Rooks and all the Wildcat players and fans.

The first half started out slow for both teams, with a majority of the points coming early from 3-point-land. As it has been the case for the Wildcats in the last several games, the Bears started the game playing zone against them and that contributed to the lack of offense early on.

Many foul calls impacted the rhythm of the first half as well. Leading scorer Lauri Markkanen, received two fouls only four minutes into the game and ended the game with just one made FG. Rabb was in foul trouble as well and finished the game just hitting two of seven from the field.

Simmons and Dusan Ristic were able to provide the offense that the Wildcats needed to maintain the lead throughout the remaining of the half  which included a ESPN Top 10 worthy dunk towards the end of the half. Who am I kidding, there actually were a lot of spectacular dunks in this game, check them out!

Throughout the second half, it was more of the same, where Markkanen continued to struggle and Alonzo Trier remained scoreless until the closing minutes of the game. He scored only 3 points, which were all from the free-throw line. Simmons showed that coming off the bench didn’t affect how he played. At around 7:43 in the 2nd half, he went strong to the basket for the plus one.

The closest the Bears came was 53-49 midway in the 2nd half but could not get any closer. Not having starting point guard for the California Bears, Charlie Moore (who injured his hip in the first half), certainly contributed to the struggles that the Bears had with their offense. Also, anytime Rabb received the ball in the post he was immediately doubled teamed.

Despite the Wildcats’s turnovers and lack of offense, coach Sean Miller felt positive, “Our team is playing together with incredible effort and no one can question that including myself,” he said at the post game press conference.

There were glimpses of how truly great this Arizona Wildcat basketball team can be this year – but then as a fan, there were moments that were hard to watch. Since Trier and Parker Jackson-Cartwright have been back into the lineup,  the confidence level of the team has improved. Hopefully this is just a little “bump” in the road and the Cats will be able to get back on track against the Washington schools next week. Bear Down Arizona!

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