Jan. 19, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -Arizona isn't the Pac-10 powerhouse it once was and the Wildcats are fighting for respect in a conference they once dominated. Slowly, they're getting there.
Jerryd Bayless scored 24 points and made four free throws over the final nine seconds as Arizona rallied late to beat California 79-75 on Saturday.
Chase Budinger had 21 points and Nic Wise added 15 points and a career-high seven rebounds for the Wildcats (12-6, 2-3 Pac-10), who were off to their worst conference start in 25 years before coming from behind to beat the Bears for the 17th time in the last 19 meetings between the two schools.
"This was a desperation game for us and it was a desperation game for them, too," said Arizona center Jordan Hill, who had eight points and four rebounds. "We just decided that we had to let it all hang out."
California out-shot and out-rebounded Arizona but the Wildcats made a season-high 11 3-pointers, four each from Budinger and Wise.
It was Arizona's work at the free throw line and its defense that made the biggest difference down the stretch, though. The Wildcats went 8-of-9 from the stripe in the final 48 seconds and held California to one basket during a five-minute stretch after falling behind 64-58 with 6:21 remaining. That was in stark contrast to Thursday's 56-52 loss to Stanford when they missed three lay-ups and two free throws in their last four possessions.
"This was big because we had two games in a row where we didn't close out," Arizona interim coach Kevin O'Neill said. "Tonight, we closed out and that's big for us. It's a confidence builder and something we can work off of."
Ryan Anderson scored 30 points and had seven rebounds for Cal (11-6, 2-4 Pac-10), which lost for the fourth time in five games. DeVon Hardin added 11 points and five rebounds while Jamal Boykin came off the bench with 10 points and six rebounds.
But the late scoring drought, coupled with 17 turnovers, proved too much for Cal to overcome.
"The big thorn for us was turnovers," Bears coach Ben Braun said. "Those are opportunities that got away from us. Our team has to value the ball ... and understand some of the decisions we make. I saw a lot of unforced turnovers."
Anderson scored nine points early in the second half when the Bears went on a 15-4 run to take a 52-47 lead. Anderson put an emphatic end to the run with a two-hand dunk that brought the Haas Pavilion crowd to its feet and had Cal's fans believing the hard times against Arizona were over.
Instead, the Wildcats weathered the Bears' run and came back with steady shooting from the perimeter and at the free throw line. Wise had a pair of 3-pointers in the second half and he later added a lay-in that tied the game at 64-64 with 4:18 left.
"They were in a zone so we had to go outside to the perimeter guys," Hill said. "They just started knocking down shots."
Anderson followed with a short basket inside -- the only Cal basket during a five-minute span when Arizona went on a 12-4 run. Hill made back-to-back baskets for the Wildcats before Anderson ended the run with a tip-in off a Patrick Christopher miss.
Arizona then sealed the game at the free throw line while California scored five points in the final 10 seconds but fell short.
The first half was a shooting display by Anderson and Budinger, two of the Pac-10's best sophomores.
Anderson, the Pac-10's leading scorer who is also third in rebounding, got the Bears off to a quick start by making his first four shots and scoring 13 points in the first 11 minutes. He made a pair of 3-pointers and added a three-point play to give Cal an early 19-12 lead.
Budinger kept pace. Arizona's 6-foot-7 forward converted six of his first eight attempts and had three 3-pointers to pull the Wildcats within 35-33 with 3:44 remaining in the first half. After a short jumper from Cal's Jamal Boykin, Bayless sank back-to-back 3-pointers from almost the same spot on the court to give Arizona its first lead of the game.
The run came while Anderson was on the bench with a bloody nose. He left with the Bears ahead 33-29 but returned just before halftime with Cal trailing 39-37 after going scoreless over the final 3:29.
Cal played its second game without 7-footer Jordan Wilkes, who sprained his left ankle late in practice earlier in the week. Wilkes initially had to wear a walking boot but was in tennis shoes while sitting on the Bears bench Saturday.