Arizona had two days to prep for Cal.
About 15 minutes into Saturday’s game, the game plan finally took hold.
The Wildcats figured out that they could score in the paint any time they wanted and pounded the Bears 87-65 at a Haas Pavilion that might as well have doubled as Tucson’s McKale Center.
Cal’s pregame fan cheer was vanquished by chants of “U of A,” and by the time Arizona was ahead 64-42 on a Justin Coleman three-pointer with 12:46 remaining, it was tough to identify many blue and gold shirts among the seas of red.
Arizona (13-4, 4-0 Pac-12) extended its winning streak to six games by pummeling Cal inside, outrebounding the Bears 38-28, scoring 42 points in the paint and shooting 65.5 percent in the second half.
The Bears (5-11, 0-4 Pac-12) ran their losing streak to five games in one of their worst offensive performances of the season. They shot a season-low 34.5 percent from the floor and flirted with season worsts in field goals made (20, just two more than against Yale) and assists (seven, just one more than against Yale and St. Mary’s).
It would have been even worse, if it wasn’t for Justice Sueing, who had a season-best 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting. The rest of the team went 12-of-45 (26.7 percent), including Darius McNeill, who was 0-for-6 from three-point range when he finally got one to fall with the game out of reach at the 12:13 mark of the second half.
Photo: Ben Margot / Associated Press
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Cal was hoping that its poor start to conference play would be altered by Paris Austin, who returned after missing two games with a sprained ankle. But the transfer point guard had just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting and two assists to three turnovers.
The Wildcats had four players in double-digit scoring, including Duke transfer Chase Jeter, who put up 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds. The Wildcats’ backcourt of Brandon Williams and Coleman combined for 29 points and nine assists on a night that opened with an extended thud.
Arizona led for 18 ½ minutes and by as many as 12 points in a slapdash first half by both teams. The Wildcats went eight minutes, 19 seconds without a field goal during a mid-first-half stretch and still led 19-17.
At that point, the eight-minute mark of the first half, the teams were a combined 11-of-32 from the field and had committed 14 turnovers to five assists. Coleman made a three-pointer to get Arizona off the scoring snide at the 6:33 mark, and the Wildcats realized they could score at will inside soon thereafter.
Jeter had eight of his 13 first-half points in the frame’s closing six minutes, including a buzzer-beating tip-in that sent Arizona into the locker room with a 40-28 lead. Austin, McNeill and Connor Vanover combined to go 2-of-19 in the first half as Cal shot just 32.1 percent from the field.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/collegesports/article/Cal-men-s-basketball-gets-pounded-in-the-paint-13529759.php.