No Rawle Alkins? No problem – at least not for No. 14 Arizona in Berkeley, Calif.
Arizona gave the California Golden Bears fits for about the last 30 minutes in as much as Cal couldn’t stop – drum roll, please – Dylan Smith, Deandre Ayton, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Allonzo Trier and Dusan Ristic.
Yes, that would be Arizona’s entire starting five. All hit for double digits and all shot 50 percent or better.
Alkins sat on the bench, watched and enjoyed as he nursed an injured foot, the same one he had surgery on about four months ago. It’s not clear if he’ll be available for Saturday.
But, such is the luxury Arizona (15-4, 5-1 in the Pac-12) has – and had – on Wednesday night in its 79-58 win over the Golden Bears. Temper that by also knowing it was the … Golden Bears, a not-ready-for-prime-time team in the Pac-12. Heck, here’s the stat of the night: Arizona held Cal scoreless or Cal just couldn’t score for about 10 minutes in the second half, making for the runaway.
And, that from a defense that has been questioned all season.
To Arizona’s credit, it did what it had to do – win the game many thought was the easier of the two. Stanford looms on Saturday in a game that could determine who takes the Pac-12 lead through the first few games.
But, back to Wednesday night, where Arizona shot 62 percent from the floor and hit 11 of 19 3-pointers for the win. It could have – should have – been by a bigger margin.
In review, Arizona assistant coach Mark Phelps, in his post-game radio show, wanted to go negative first: Arizona had a season-high 21 turnovers.
“We knew they’d play a physical brand of full-court pressure,” Phelps said. “We wish we would have taken care of the ball better.”
It made up in other areas. Whether it was Arizona’s defense – maybe, maybe not – Cal went 1 for 13 from beyond the 3-point line. Cal shot 35 percent from the floor.
“”This has not been a typical Sean Miller 3-point field goal defensive team,” Phelps said. “ I thought we took a step in that direction.”
Conversely, Arizona was efficient from beyond the half-moon line, hitting 11 of 19 3s.
Smith hit all four of his 3s. Jackson-Cartwright hit 4 of 6.
“Dylan came in and did an unbelievable job,” Phelps said. “You can’t get much better than that. We shot the ball well and when we took care of the ball we took good shots.”
Who took better shots than Ayton, UA’s 7-footer wunderkind who went 9 for 11 from the floor with mostly dunks and point-blank shots? He finished with his 13th double-double, a school record for double-doubles for a season by a freshman. He had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“He’s something else,” Phelps said. “… he was once again the best player on the floor. He was uncharacteristically not as good from the free throw line (2-5) but he impacts the game more than his numbers indicate. He keeps getting better and better.”
Arizona will need to be better, too, on Saturday vs. Stanford. Wednesday night was just the shoot-around.