I'll be honest, I'm not going to be spending a lot of time on this game. Here's the quick summary: Arizona is the best basketball team on the West Coast (maybe the nation) and when they are playing at their best at home nobody will beat them.
And Arizona played near their very best. We're not all here at this website to spend time fawning over the Wildcats, but damn. Nick Johnson very much looked like the best player in the conference. T.J. McConnell knew when to shoot and when to pass every time. Kaleb Tarczewski hit shots despite some really good post defense. Aaron Gordon was the 5th best player on his team and still scored more points than any individual Cal player. And I haven't even talked about the defense, which is the most impressive part about this team.
Yuck. I didn't enjoy writing any of that. I've had to write too many nice things about Arizona basketball over the last few years. Thank goodness for Niya Butts.
For most of the first half, I actually thought Cal didn't play all that poorly. They worked really hard on offense to get passable looks, and they hit those looks. There were a few too many turnovers (and unfortunately those turnovers directly led to easy Arizona baskets) but it was an offensive effort that was at least as good as what the Bears brought when they beat Arizona in Berkeley. That offensive effort, in that building, against that defense, is perfectly admirable.
Unfortunately, it was never going to be enough. Against UCLA, everything went wrong, including things Cal could control, like effort and focus. Against Arizona, everything that Cal couldn't control went wrong. A subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless. At least Cal brought a focused effort until the game devolved into extended garbage time after a pair of technical fouls that I still haven't seen an explanation for.
- David Kravish might have played the best 5 minutes of his Cal career to start the game. Then he picked up two fouls and I played a sad trombone in my head.
- Was anybody else impressed by Kam Rook's defense on Tarczewski? Granted, Kam is one of the few players in the conference with the size to stand up to Zeus, but he held position without fouling. Kam could be a big plus defensively next year, at least in certain match-ups.
- We went small with Kreklow at the 4 a bit, I suspect more as a response to foul trouble than as a proactive strategy. Unfortunately, Arizona's defense wasn't bothered and Gordon was too much for Ricky on defense. So it goes.
- In the first 10 minutes or so, Cal forced plenty of the types of shots we all want to see Arizona taking. Arizona made them anyway. When Gabe York banked in a 3 I knew for sure we were going to lose. Bummer.