Arizona Basketball

Top three storylines of Cal Golden Bears vs. Arizona Wildcats



Arizona is trying to go unscathed at McKale Center for two consecutive seasons (ESPN screen shot)

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logo.Cal2 ArizonaLogo

PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

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CAL (17-12, 7-9) AT NO. 5 ARIZONA (26-3, 14-2)
Tip Time: 7:05 p.m. MST
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch/Bill Walton)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
Overall: Arizona leads, 57-30
In Tucson: Arizona leads, 31-10
Current Streak: Arizona won 2
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 73-50, on Jan. 24, 2015
Sean Miller vs. California: 6-3

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Top three storylines for tonight’s game:

1. Nation’s longest home win streak on the line.

The last time Arizona lost at McKale Center was Feb. 10, 2013, when an unranked Cal came to town and emerged victorious against the seventh-ranked Wildcats 77-69. Cal’s Allen Crabbe scored a game-high 31 points, making 12 of 15 field goal attempts in the process.

Since then, over the last three seasons, Arizona has won a nation’s-best 36 games consecutively at McKale Center. The Wildcats will attempt this weekend to go unscathed at McKale for the entire season for the 12th time since the venue opened in 1973.

They will try to do that in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 teams achieved that feat.

Anything can happen, even in the vaunted McKale Center. Food for thought: Arizona built a 37-game home winning streak over the 1996-97 to 1999-2000 seasons. An unranked New Mexico team, that was 5-5 entering the game, snapped the streak by beating the No. 3 Wildcats 70-68 on a last-second tip-in.

The upset losses to Cal two years ago and New Mexico in 1999 show that nothing can be taken for granted no matter how dominant Arizona might seem.

A player can get a hot hand and his team can gain confidence. That happened with Crabbe. New Mexico’s Kevin Henry made 7 of 12 field-goal attempts in 1999.

2. Men of Steal.

Led by T.J. McConnell (2.1) and Stanley Johnson (1.5), Arizona is averaging 7.1 steals per game, which ranks second in the Pac-12 and marks Arizona’s highest average in Miller’s tenure as head coach.

McConnell’s 60 total steals are the third-best single-season total by an Arizona player under Miller. He had a career-best eight steals against Oregon State on Jan. 30, a Pac-12 single-game high this season.


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Johnson ranks second among Pac-12 freshmen and sixth in the league overall with his steal average. His 43 total steals are the fifth-most by a freshman in Arizona history and the most by an Arizona freshman in Miller’s tenure.

Arizona’s team average will not challenge the school record of 10.1 per game set by the national championship team of 1996-97. That team had defensive standouts Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Michael Dickerson and Bennett Davison.

Although McConnell and Johnson are high on the steals list in the Pac-12, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is Arizona’s best defender. He has 31 steals. His specialty is denying the ball and open looks to whom he’s guarding.

On the flipside, Cal is one of six Pac-12 teams that turns the ball over more than it produces assists. Defensively, the Golden Bears are 11th in the Pac-12 averaging only 4.2 steals per game.

3. Wallace is Cal’s primary focus.

Talking about a player who can get a hot hand, Cal’s Tyrone Wallace has emerged as one of the league’s best. The junior point guard ranks in the top 10 in the Pac-12 in scoring (17 points a game), rebounding (7.4) and assists (3.8).

Wallace is a multi-dimensional player who can also play on the wing. Expect McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson to trade off the defensive assignment on Wallace, who has taken by far the most field goal attempts of his team.

Wallace has made 180 of 423 attempts (42.6 percent). The next highest teammate is senior center David Kravish with 294 attempts.

By contrast, Johnson has tried the most field goals for Arizona at 298. By the time the season concludes, Arizona can have as many as six players with at least 200 field goal attempts. Cal has only three presently. Sophomore guard Jabari Bird has attempted 174 with a minimum of three games remaining (two regular-season games and at least one in the Pac-12 tournament).

That indicates Arizona’s depth and ability to spread the ball around. Cal’s execution is predicated on only a few players, allowing defenses to concentrate on those individuals, including sophomore guard Jordan Mathews (130 of 287 from the field and 14.2 points per game).


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Present RPI ranking of the Pac-12.
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Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents.
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[table “” not found /] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also has published articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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