Cal has had their challenges offensively at times this early season, and it was too much to overcome Friday night. The Bears made just one field goal in the final six minutes of play, and that was a long three by Jabari Bird with 16.6 seconds to go to pull Cal within four at 66-62.
Ivan Rabb recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and a career-high 16 rebounds despite being limited by foul trouble. Bird also scored 16 with seven boards. Rabb and Bird were the only productive offensive performers for Cal.
"I felt when Ivan got in foul trouble it kind of changed the momentum for us in the second half," said Cuonzo Martin following the game. "You've got to keep plugging away."
Cal's freshman point guard, Charlie Moore, got off to a hot start, but went zero for six after the intermission. He finished with 12 points on 3 of 12 shooting with four assists and four turnovers. The turnover total continues to be a problem for Moore and for Cal.
Center Dusan Ristic had a fine game for Arizona with 16 points. He made 8 of his 10 field goal attempts. Freshman Kobi Simmons added 14, 10 of those in the second half on a variety of strong drives to the rim.
Cal struggled to contain dribble penetration throughout the game, especially in the second half. Arizona had 46 points in the paint for the game, 28 of those after the break.
"I just think simply guys that were defending the ball didn't take pride in defending," said Martin. "I think that's what happened in the second half. I didn't think we did a good job, the perimeter guys, of just moving their feet and keeping the ball in front of them. think it was that simple."
Bird agreed with his coach. "Tonight was completely on the guards, we had to keep them out of the lane," said the senior wing.
It was a game of runs, and scoring droughts. Cal led 32-26 at the half thanks to an early 15-0 run, but Arizona quickly got even and took their first lead (38-36) after the early moments when Simmons scored on a drive. The visitors built a five-point lead as the home team went scoreless for four and a half minutes. Cal regained the advantage at 42-41 on a short jumper by Rabb at the 11:31 mark.
Unfortunately for the Bears, Rabb picked up his fourth foul less than a minute later, and went to the bench. A 16-7 spurt put the Wildcats in charge 59-50. It was too much to overcome, though the Bears didn't pack it in.
Ristic hit a jumper that appeared to be the game's "dagger", giving the Wildcats a 64-56 lead with 48 seconds to go. Moore got fouled shooting a trey and made two of the three at the line.
Kadeem Allen sank a pair at the charity stripe to restore the Arizona eight-point lead with 34.5 on the clock, then Moore split a pair at the line. Arizona turned it over on the inbounds play, and Bird nailed a rainbow trey from deep on the left wing to make it 66-62 with 16.6 seconds on the clock.
Another Wildcat miscue gave Cal one last opportunity, but Bird's three-point try went in and out, and a free throw by Rawle Alkins finished the scoring.
Cal will try to get a split for the weekend when they host Arizona State on Sunday at Haas Pavilion. The New Year's Day contest tips at 7:00 PM.