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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats look to move past Cal on road trip

Tyler Baker
Arizona forward Mark Tollefsen (23) defends the ball from a Washington State player in McKale Center on Thursday, Jan. 14. Tollefsen has taken over a starting roll since the loss of Allonzo Trier.

Heading into the season, California and Arizona were labeled front runners of the Pac-12 Conference.

The Wildcats, for the most part, are still holding their end of the bargain. Despite a smattering of injuries and a couple of road losses to UCLA and USC out of the gate, Arizona appears to have the form of a team who can take a stab at the conference title.

As for Cal?

The Golden Bears stampeded into the 2015-2016 campaign with a level of hype and hope not seen in Berkeley since the Jason Kidd days.

Led by a pair of freshmen—Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown—California was ranked as high as No. 14 in the early national polls.

Even Arizona head coach Sean Miller bought into the Bears buildup.

At the conference’s media day in October, Miller told reporters, “Cal is going to be a terrific team. What they have going for them is that blend of talent—both old and new—and that can be a powerful thing.”

But melding individual talent into a cohesive, winning group is never as easy as it seems.

Those five-star rankings don’t immediately translate into five-star play.

That’s what California head coach Cuonzo Martin is learning this season.

California heads into its Saturday matchup with Arizona following three straight road losses to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford.

The loss to cross-town rival Stanford likely stung the most, as California dropped to 2-3 in the conference, a mark that seemed unforeseeable just a few weeks ago.

The Bears suffered an even bigger loss Tuesday when the program announced that Tyrone Wallace will miss the next four to six weeks with a broken wrist injury.

Wallace was California’s leading scorer with 15.4 points per game and averaged a team-high 4.6 assists.

In short, he facilitated the Bears’ offense.

Without Wallace, California needs its star freshmen to take on a greater role.

Rabb, the 6-foot-11 power forward who committed to California over Arizona, has put up solid, but not stellar, numbers in conference play.

Meanwhile, Brown has scored 17 or more points in five of California’s past seven games. The 6-foot-7 forward will now become the Bears’ go-to scorer with Wallace gone.

Brown and Rabb both prefer to play close to the hoop, but Brown is the more dynamic scorer of the two.

Brown could pose a matchup problem for the Wildcats, given that he outsizes the Wildcats’ guards and possess greater speed than Mark Tollefsen.

If the Wildcats can force Brown to work for open looks, Arizona could find itself in good shape against an underachieving group trying to create a new identity without its best player.

Tip-off is slated for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.

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