AP – Arizona isn’t worried about its NCAA tournament seed yet with a chance to wrap up the outright Pac-12 regular-season title Thursday night.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats can extend the nation’s longest home winning streak to 37 games when they face California – the last visiting team to win in Tucson.
Arizona (26-3, 14-2) won its sixth straight and moved two games in front of No. 13 Utah for the conference lead with Saturday’s 63-57 win over the Utes. The Wildcats improved to 4-0 against ranked opponents with a performance that came on the heels of an 82-54 rout at Colorado two nights earlier.
Coach Sean Miller’s team could gain a top seed in the NCAAs, but he isn’t interested in any of that speculation.
“Part of playing well is to be locked in on not making this too big and yet understanding that everything we do is really important,” Miller said. “For example, Cal, not what seed we’re going to get or if we win, what’s going to happen as much as can we play our best and build on the Utah and Colorado trip here this weekend?”
The Wildcats, who host Stanford on Saturday, are 15-0 at home. This would mark the second straight season they would be outright champs – both since Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell took over as the starting point guard.
“We would obviously like to finish these two games with wins,” McConnell said. “And for a career here to never lose a home game, that’s obviously in the back of my mind and to run through the fans as a Pac-12 champion would be a great thing so we just have to keep our minds focused on Cal and then go from there.”
Miller and McConnell said that the team grew closer Saturday by winning even though star freshman Stanley Johnson made 3 of 19 shots for 12 points, though he grabbed 11 rebounds. Johnson was benched down the stretch with reserve Gabe York picking up the slack by scoring five of his 12 points in the final 2 minutes.
Arizona held a 44-35 edge on the glass, right in line with a plus-8.7 rebound margin that ranks among the nation’s best.
California (17-12, 7-9) won 77-69 at the McKale Center on Feb. 10, 2013. The Golden Bears aren’t as good as that team which reached the NCAAs, though they are a little more confident after winning Sunday’s home finale, 73-56 over Oregon State to end a three-game slide.
Jordan Matthews scored 17, David Kravish had 13 and 13 rebounds and Tyrone Wallace added 12 points and seven assists. Kravish and Wallace are the only Golden Bears remaining who played in the upset of Arizona two seasons ago.
“I am really hoping that we can keep the momentum going and bring it to the upcoming road games,” Kravish said. “Then carry that to the Pac-12 tournament because we have a lot of games coming up.”
Cal has won six of nine since dropping to 1-6 in the conference after a 73-50 home defeat to Arizona on Jan. 24. Johnson had 18 points for the Wildcats, who outscored the Bears 23-1 at the foul line.