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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 18 Arizona men’s basketball hosts No. 25 California

Tyler Baker
Arizona coach Niya Butts stares at the jumbotron in McKale Center on Nov. 10, 2015. Arizona Athletics director Greg Byrne announced Tuesday that the school and Butts are parting ways.

As the regular season comes to a close for No. 18 Arizona, five Wildcats will be dressing out in front of the McKale Center faithful for the final time.

Gabe York, Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson, Mark Tollefsen and Jacob Hazzard will look to defend their home court two final times, beginning Thursday night against the No. 25 California Golden Bears.

“Teams are desperate in a good way at this time of year,” head coach Sean Miller said. “They reach back and they perform and they take down the giants in their conference tournament.”

Cal is one of the hottest teams in the Pac-12 Conference right now. Winners of its last seven and currently undefeated in February, Cal already upset the UA in January.

Miller had some high praise for Cal senior Tyrone Wallace, who missed the first matchup with a broken bone in his right wrist.

“I’m happy to see Tyrone Wallace [is] back. He came back for his senior year and he’s one of the premier players in the Pac-12,” Miller said. “I know in many ways he’s Cal’s heart and soul both on offense and defense.”

Wallace returned to the Cal lineup in the Bears’ upset over Oregon and has averaged almost 15 points per game in the six games he has been back.

Cal is hitting its stride at the right time too.

Freshman phenomenon Jaylen Brown is seventh in the conference with 15.8 points per game. Jordan Mathews is third in the Pac-12 in 3-point field goal percentage at about 44 percent and Ivan Rabb has proven to be one of the better rebounders in the conference, averaging just over eight a game.

The Golden Bears as a team are one of the best defenses in the conference. They have held opponents to conference bests at 67 points per game and allowing teams to only shoot 39 percent from the field.

Arizona (22-7, 10-6) was most recently swept on its road trip through Colorado and Utah. The Wildcats now sit in fourth place in the Pac-12 standings and wins over Cal and Stanford would help ensure they earn a first round bye in next weekend’s Pac-12 Tournament.

“Coming off of back-to-back losses, that’s what Colorado did in [Los Angeles] and I thought they handled it extremely well against us,” Miller said.

The last time these two teams met, Arizona saw five players score in double figures, but to no avail. Mathews scored 28 and Brown added 15 for Cal.

This weekend could be even more special for Tarczewski. With a sweep this weekend, he would officially become the all-time wins leader here at Arizona.

“It would mean a lot to be the winningest player here,” Tarczewski said. “There have been so many great players here. It would sum up, in my mind, how successful I’ve been since I’ve been here.”

But for Zeus, there’s one aspect that trumps this incredible feat.

“At this point of the season, kind of coming down to the end of it, we just need to be playing our best basketball and that’s the only thing that matters to me.”

Arizona and Cal tipoff at 7 p.m. on Thursday and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter

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