Down to two on the undefeated front, with Arizona losing for the first time this season 58-60 to California, winning thanks to a last second jumper by Justin Cobbs.
Arizona were one of four top 10 teams to lose on the weekend, which happened almost exactly to the year last season: No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Kansas, No. 6 Syracuse and No. 10 Oregon all lost on Feb. 2, 2013.
Things went wrong for Arizona right from the start as Brandon Ashley appeared to break his foot going for a rebound in the opening minutes. Arizona struggled to get anything going offensively from that moment going forward, shooting only 32.3% from the field and an awful 18% from beyond the arc, surviving on offensive rebounding alone, grabbing 14 of them.
Arizona have been struggling offensively for the last couple of weeks. They were scoring 75.9 points on 49.1% shooting from the field and 37.9% from beyond the arc through the first 18 games. Over the last four, however, things have drastically changed, averaging 63 points (held under 70 in each of them), shooting 39.4% from the field and 25.9% from beyond the arc.
It was a big night for Cobbs, who scored the final 12 points for California, improving to 6-3 in the Pac-12 and getting their second win over a ranked team following their win over Oregon on January 9. He finished with 19 points and 7 assists; David Kravish scored 14 points and added 11 rebounds; Richard Solomon added 12 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.
For Arizona, the guys they needed to put up big nights were held to abysmal ones: Aaron Gordon had 8 points with 13 rebounds on 4-of-14 shooting, while Nick Johnson was an awful 1-of-14 from the field, including 0-of-5 from beyond the arc, shooting 4 points. Kaleb Tarczewski scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed six rebounds, and T.J. McConnell scored 13 points for the Wildcats, but that was far from enough.
We’d always found a way to be on the positive end of it. Tonight in that same moment, we didn’t make the shots and we didn’t get the big stop.
If Arizona are looking at luck and simply poor executing only, it’s the wrong way of thinking. The ball moved slowly, and they weren’t aggressive enough, settling for mid-range jumpers instead of trying to use their physical advantages on California. It doesn’t mean an end to Arizona’s big plans and ambitions this seasons, but the last few weeks are an indication that all of the praise earlier this season might have been a bit too much for these kids.
No one is thinking about national championships and winning the conference at California, but beating a number one team is more than just rushing the court and embracing the moment, and it has something to do with thinking a little bit bigger than they’ve been having so far, winning against a number one team for the first time since 1994.
I think it’s just good for Cal, and I think it’s good for the university and the students to come out and have that kind of excitement. I think one of the things you’re trying to generate is them enjoying the game, enjoying the experience, and I think there was some of that tonight.