After losing both games on the rocky mountain road swing last week, Arizona comes home to McKale Center to face California on Thursday (7:00 pm│ESPN). Cal is on a seven game winning streak and is one game ahead of Arizona in the conference standings. The teams played on January 23rd in Berkeley with Cal winning 74-73.
Tyrone Wallace vs Kadeem Allen – Wallace missed the previous matchup with a broken hand and has been an integral part in Cal’s winning streak and better play. Since coming back from injury, the tall athletic lefty point guard has averaged 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4 assists a game. Allen came off the bench the past couple games after dealing with a respiratory infection but has since gained back most of the 17 pounds he lost. With Wallace’s size, Allen is the better matchup and should get the starting nod over Parker Jackson-Cartwright. Much like the rest of Arizona’s defense, Allen has been sporadic on that end. He has all the physical tools to be a great defender, but gets lost too often on backdoor cuts or isn’t dialed in on every possession. Allen will need to bring his best effort on Thursday to contain Wallace.
Jaylen Brown vs Allonzo Trier – Brown is the leading candidate for Pac-12 Freshmen Of The Year and a sure fire lottery pick in the NBA Draft. A big strong athletic wing, Brown gave Arizona trouble during the first meeting. He was able to continually penetrate and get in the lane to draw fouls or dish out to his teammates for open perimeter jumpers. Trier did not play in the first Arizona/Cal game due to a broken hand, and if healthy for the whole year he would have been neck and neck with Brown for Freshmen Of The Year honors. He was wonderful against Utah, using his array of offensive skills to keep Arizona in the game. Trier will need to play solid defense and keep Brown in front of him and avoid foul trouble. This will be an exciting matchup of two of the best freshmen wing players in the country, not just the Pac-12.
Ivan Rabb vs Ryan Anderson – Rabb is having a steady freshmen campaign for Cal this season, averaging 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 62% from the field. The rangy athletic ambidextrous big man will look to recover from a foul plagued effort against Arizona in the first game. Anderson got the better of Rabb on January 23rd with 14 points and 9 rebounds, able to use his strength and experience to outwork and muscle Rabb. It will be interesting to monitor how Anderson does defensively, and if Miller will go to Chance Comanche again if Anderson doesn’t pick up his play on that end.
What To Look For
Defensive Rebounding. Arizona did a better job on the boards against Utah than Colorado but still gave up costly offensive rebounds late in the game. In the first meeting with Cal, Arizona gave up 12 offensive rebounds. Limiting Cal to one shot will be imperative to victory.
Turnovers. Arizona had 11 turnovers against Colorado and 10 against Utah which is right where Coach Miller would like the number to be. Arizona will need to continue to take care of the ball against the fast and athletic Cal players.
Defense. Against Utah, Arizona was unable to put together a complete game on the defensive end which has been a trend this season. Utah scored 40 points in the first half and was able to seize momentum. Arizona will need play well defensively for both halves to beat Cal. In the first matchup, Arizona used some zone and might employ a similar strategy this game. Jordan Matthews came off the bench and made 6 three pointers in the game in Berkeley, keeping him in check will be critical as well.
California is a confident team riding a seven game winning streak and still in contention for the Pac-12 championship. The Golden Bears are playing their best basketball of the season and firing on all cylinders. Arizona has their backs against the wall and with the prospects of winning a third consecutive conference title all but lost last weekend, they need to regroup and win the last two games at home and build confidence and momentum heading into post season play. Arizona can ill afford to lose and not be in the top four of the conference standings and not get a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament next week, having to possibly win four games in four days to win the championship. With only two more chances to watch this year’s team at McKale, I expect Wildcat fans will Bear Down in full force.
Allonzo Trier wore the HyperLive Arizona PE against Utah.
With two games left at McKale Center for seniors Kaleb Tarczewski, Gabe York, Ryan Anderson, Mark Tollefsen and Jacob Hazzard, I wanted to take a moment to appreciate what they’ve all done during their time at Arizona.
Kaleb Tarczewski has been a rock down low the past four years. He is playing his best basketball of his career right now and I’ve never seen him so engaged on both ends of the floor. Zeus is continually beating his man down the court and is Arizona’s best defensive player, always in the right spot and providing help when the guards get beat off the dribble by blocking shots or altering them. Having won 107 games while suiting up for Arizona, I would like to see him tie Matt Muehlebach’s record of 109 on Saturday against Stanford and break the record during the Pac-12 tournament. Arizona fans have been critical of Tarczewski during his four years, but we should not take what he does for granted and will only realize how valuable he is when gone.
Gabe York is a perfect example of what believing in the coaching staff and program will do for a player. He barely played his freshmen season, could have transferred to another school but stuck around and was an integral part of the team the past two years and has really improved his body and game. York didn’t have the best weekend against Colorado and Utah, which was a key reason the team lost but I hope he plays better his last two games at McKale Center and goes out on a high note.
Ryan Anderson has only been on the court for one year at Arizona, although a team member the past two years. He did a tremendous job working on his body last year after transferring and fostering chemistry with his teammates. He has been so steady this season, a double-double machine and has provided tremendous leadership and plays extremely hard. Although his defense has been spotty at times this season, one thing coaches and fans can never question is his heart and will.
Mark Tollefsen has been a great complimentary player this season. He plays the game the right way and is unselfish to a fault. In the seven games Allonzo Trier missed due to injury, Tollefsen filled in admirably and I would like to see him play that aggressively all the time. Arizona will need Tollefsen down the stretch of the season if it hopes to advance deep in the tournament.
Jacob Hazzard has become a fan favorite in his time at Arizona. He always shows so much enthusiasm and energy on the sidelines and is the best shooter I’ve seen coming off the bench, sitting for 38 minutes and going into the game cold and making a three pointer on his first touch.