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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Arizona makes comeback, slips past Cal Golden Bears”

On a dreary bus ride and cold turkey sandwiches in hand following a loss to Oregon State last week, Sean Miller had an opportunity to chat with his unassuming leading scorer, Derrick Williams.

“”To be assertive is so important for our team,”” Miller told Williams.

It didn’t go in one ear and out of the forward’s other.

Williams scored 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds on Thursday in the McKale Center as Arizona (13-3, 2-1 Pacific 10 Conference) dodged a bullet and won 73-71 against a shallow California Golden Bear (7-7, 0-2 Pac-10) team.

“”I’m not really the selfish type (of) person,”” Williams said, “”but today I had to be a little bit selfish and put everybody on my shoulders.””

Williams drew a school-record 22 free throws, making 16. That free throw output aided the Wildcats (25-for-32 as a team or 78 percent) in putting their slim loss and poor foul line shooting at Oregon State in the past.

Scoring the first six points of the night, the Wildcats built a 15-5 lead five minutes into the game.

Failing to relieve their lead throughout nearly all of the the first half, the Wildcats looked in control, but the Golden Bears’ fight wouldn’t let it slip away just yet.

“”I’ll take that (loss) and a commitment like that,”” Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said of his team. “”I know wins and losses are the whole deal but they came together as a team and played with a lot of heart.””

The Golden Bears battled back behind freshman Allen Crabbe, who led his team with 15 points in the first half before Arizona quieted him for two points in the second. Also hurting Arizona were big men Harper Kamp and Mark Sanders-Frison, who belted Arizona in the post and each scored 12 points.

With 0.7 seconds left before the intermission and a one-point Arizona lead, UA forward Jamelle Horne picked up a blocking foul on scrappy guard Jorge Gutierrez, who hit the two foul shots.

Just like that, the Golden Bears led 33-32 at the break. It was a disappointing figure for the Wildcats, who were facing the Cal team fresh off a double-digit defeat to rival Stanford and the loss of freshman Gary Franklin, who had made the decision to transfer after the Stanford game.

Cal kept up with the Wildcats with physicality and grit. Gutierrez was booed throughout the evening by the McKale crowd after refusing to be helped off the deck by forward Kevin Parrom, who had fouled Gutierrez on a fastbreak layup, forcing the Golden Bear to slam against the hoop’s backstop.

It was indicative of what UA point guard Momo Jones, who scored six points and had two assists, called the most physical team his team had played.

“”That’s all I can say: ‘They play hard,'”” Jones said. “”They’re going to surprise some people down the stretch.””

Cal started the second half on a 8-0 run, part of a 12-0 run that spanned before and after halftime. The Wildcats fell behind by as many as nine points, 41-32, with 17 minutes to play and put themselves in a tough position — foul trouble by Arizona put Cal in a 1-and-1 foul shot situation.

“”We fouled shooters, we left our feet, we reached,”” Miller said. “”We bailed them out a couple times. Playing hard doesn’t mean fouling.””

Trailing the entire second half until 5:28 remained, Williams tied the game at 60 with two free throws, and with 3:39 on the clock, Jones hit two more to shift the lead back in Arizona’s favor. It was the Wildcats’ first lead since 0.7 seconds remained in the first half.

Jones then hit a twisting shot in the lane with two minutes left to give Arizona a 64-60 lead.

Guard Kyle Fogg — who with Horne was second on Arizona’s roster, scoring 10 points — hit a left-wing 3-pointer to notch the score at 70-64. But Cal quickly fizzled the UA lead away.

Parrom threw the ball away against full-court pressure before fouling Crabbe on a 3-point attempt with 33 seconds left. Crabbe hit two of the three shots to bring Cal within one point (70-69). Gutierrez was called on a blocking foul against Jones in the backcourt and Jones made two free throws to give Arizona a three-point lead.

Williams fouled Cal’s Richard Solomon with 11.5 seconds remaining, and the Golden Bear again brought his team within one point of Arizona on two made foul shots.

The Bears had one last chance to win when they fouled Arizona’s Solomon Hill with two seconds left. He made 1-for-2 at the stripe, but Gutierrez missed a running shot just inside half court to seal the Cal loss.

 

In another zone

For the second straight game, Arizona scored in the 70-point range against a zone defense. Miller said he didn’t think the Wildcats struggle to produce on offense against the zone defenses and that it’s solely a product of having Williams.

“”I think teams play a zone because they’re worried about Derrick,”” Miller said.

That means the Wildcats expect more zone defenses to come, no matter if they win, lose, shoot well from the perimeter or don’t.

It leaves them with one option as they continue through the Pac-10 zones: “”Chop it up,”” Jones said.

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