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The Daily Wildcat

 

Recap: Arizona overcomes adversity to defeat Cal 73-51

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Arizona forward Brandon Ashley (21) gets into an altercation with California forward David Kravish (45) after Kravish sat on Ashley and pinned him to the ground during Arizona’s 73-51 win against California in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. on Thursday.

LAS VEGAS — It was a tale of two halves for Arizona men’s basketball as they opened up the Pac-12 tournament with a close game that blew open in the second half.

The No. 5 ranked and top seeded Wildcats (29-3) beat California 73-51 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals. Arizona led by six at the half, before outscoring Cal 40-24 in the final 20 minutes.

“On our end, I thought we were better in the second half than we were in the first half across the board,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “There’s always a feeling-out process in March when you get into these tournaments, because teams are desperate.”

Arizona now plays in the semifinals Friday night at 6:10 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.

Despite losing 73-50 to Arizona in Berkeley, Calif. and 99-60 in Tucson, the Golden Bears played the Wildcats close early on, as there was six lead changes and two ties.

“No matter which team it is, any team in the Pac-12 Tournament seems to raise their level,” point guard T.J. McConnell said. “They played well in the first half and we were kind of stagnant and we picked it up in the second half.”

Arizona improved to 25-13 in the Pac-12 Tournament and 8-5 under Miller. No. 1 seeds are now 29-10 and eight seeds are now 9-17.

Thursday afternoon’s game was Arizona’s first in the tournament, while Cal beat ninth seeded Washington State 84-59 on Wednesday.

“Competitive game, we battled, they battled,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “They played well.”

The Golden Bears’ fight almost turned into a literal battle, after Cal forward David Kravish sat on UA forward Brandon Ashley and then pushed him while the game action was on the other side of the floor.

“That’s basketball, you compete, you play hard, you battle,” Martin said. “You don’t play dirty. You don’t do anything malicious. Just battling.”

Both players received technical fouls on the play. However, Ashley had the last laugh, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

“We’re the team that’s 29 and 3,” Miller said. “We’re going to take some punches. I’ve talked to these guys a lot about that and when I say punches, I don’t mean a punch, I mean effort. And Cal played us really hard and physical.”

Kravish had a career-high 25 points on Wednesday but Arizona limited him to just six points on 3-for-13 shooting. It was the ninth time this season Kravish made three or fewer baskets in a game.

“I think you have to give all the credit to defense,” Martin said about Kravish. “When the shots were falling they did the same thing, made shots, made plays to get shots. And you have to give credit to the defense for making it tough on them.”

Arizona freshman forward Stanley Johnson scored 19 points, tying a game-high. With 450 points this year, he passed Salim Stoudamire for 10th most for a freshman all-time.

Johnson grabbed seven rebounds to tie center Kaleb Tarczewski for fourth most in a rookie season for a Wildcat. This is the 26th time he has scored in double-figures this season. 



“I think it’s always good to have games like this,” Johnson said. “We can always learn from every game we play. I think we played good in spurts and bad in spurts.”

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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