After yet another dominating second half performance, this time against Stanford in a 71-57 win, Arizona now heads to Berkley to face a 13-6 (3-3 in conference) Cal team Saturday evening (630 AZ time/ESPN). At 16-3 (4-2 in the Pac-12), Arizona continues to be the best team in the conference and the one with the biggest target on its back. Yet to lose at Haas Pavilion, Cal will see Saturday’s game as a potential NCAA Tournament resume builder.
Cal will be without their best all around player, senior Tyrone Wallace, for the next four to six weeks after he suffered a broken hand. Wallace was averaging 15, 5, and 5 per game this season. In his stead, Cal will have to lean on freshman sensations Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. After Arizona’s long recruitment of Rabb, the coaching staff and players will be very familiar with his game. He will face tough matchups against the athletic big men of Arizona. Corralling Brown on his drives to the hoop will be imperative for the Arizona defense. Brown is a very aggressive player, something that occasionally hurts him on the defensive side. If the Cats guards and wings can attack Brown early and get him in foul trouble, it will be a big boost for Arizona.
Outside of their off the bench gunner Jordan Mathews (43%), Cal is not a good three-point shooting team. Mathews shoots about 5 threes per game and will surely be monitored closely by the Wildcat defense.
Cal will be supported by what will likely be their biggest and most hostile crowd of the season. A couple veteran members of the Wildcats team will remember losing in Berkley on a buzzer beater two years ago. Remembering a team’s fans rushing the court against you (as is the case in nearly every conference loss for Arizona these days) is always a motivator. Going up against one of the most talented starting lineups in the Pac-12 should also be enough of a motivating factor for Arizona.
Seniors Gabe York and Ryan Anderson will look to carry much of the scoring load for the Wildcats, with Zeus, Tollefsen, Allen, and Ristic always capable of contributing. Against a team that has lost three of its last four, Arizona is the team in this matchup with all the momentum right now.
With home matchups against the Oregon schools looming next week, getting out of Berkley with another big road win will do wonders for Arizona’s confidence. After the slip-ups in LA, proving to themselves that they can win on the road in unfriendly environments is big for Arizona as the season proceeds into its latter stages. In a game against a team without much experience, Arizona will rely on its veteran players to get its fourth consecutive victory.