Feb. 26, 1998
TUCSON, Ariz. -- California pushed second-ranked Arizona to the limit Thursday night, but the Wildcats remained perfect in Pac-10 play with a 76-73 victory at the McKale Center.
For the fifth straight year in Tucson, the game came down to the final possession. A three-point play by Thomas Kilgore moved Cal to within 74-72 with 2:31 left. Neither team could score for the next two minutes, but when Geno Carlisle was fouled by Arizona's A.J. Bramlett with 14.0 seconds left, the Bears had an opportunity to tie the game.
Carlisle made his first free throw, but after Arizona called a time out, his second attempt rolled out. Cal fouled Michael Dickerson with 11 second remaining, and the Arizona senior made one of two free throws for a 75-73 Wildcat advantage.
The Bears took their final timeout with 10 seconds left to set up their final play. However, when Carlisle took the ball on the wing, he was called for an offensive foul coming off a screen with 2.9 seconds remaining to essentially seal Cal's fate. Mike Bibby hit one free throw for Arizona to provide the final 76-73 margin.
"I was OK with the call either way, letting players decide the game," Cal head coach Ben Braun said of the Bears last possession. "I'm sure there was some contact both ways. I'm not going to focus on it. I told the players we had several other opportunities to win the game. We played hard. I am proud of our effort."
Cal (11-13, 7-8) led by five points at the break and went up by as many as seven points (44-37) early in the second half. But Arizona (25-3, 15-0) went on a 23-8 run to take a 60-52 lead with 10:29 left. Cal freshman Sean Lampley, who finished with a career-high 21 points, scored seven consecutive points to bring the Bears within one point at 65-64 with 6:39 remaining.
The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the game, before the action in the final 15 seconds.
Cal shot 53.6 percent from the floor, led by Lampley, who made nine of his 13 attempts. The Bears also outrebounded the Wildcats, 35-24, with Lampley again pacing the squad with eight boards.
"Sean came out and played with a lot of spirit and heart," Braun said. "It's good to see that in a freshman."
Dickerson scored 21 of his game-high 23 points in the second half for Arizona, which beat Cal for the third straight year in Tucson by three points or less (also UA 71-68 in 1996 and UA 81-80 in '97). Cal won 98-83 in OT in 1994 and 74-72 in 1995.