TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) (Mar. 11) -- Ninth-ranked Arizona captured a 70-61 victory over California on March 11 to finish as Pac-10 co-champion and earn the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Gilbert Arenas scored 22 for the Wildcats (26-6, 15-3), who share the conference title with No. 2 Stanford, but get the automatic bid by beating the Cardinal twice.
Arizona will find out Sunday, March 12 if it will get the No. 1 seed in the West. It is the ninth time the Wildcats have won or shared the Pac-10 title in coach Lute Olson's 17 years at the school.
Cal (16-14, 7-11) didn't make it easy for the 'Cats, who were without Justin Wessel. Wessel sprained his right ankle in Thursday night's 86-81 victory over Stanford. With 7-foot-1 Loren Woods already out with a back injury, Arizona was down to six scholarship players, all freshmen and sophomores, and no true center.
Michael Wright scored 15 for the Wildcats, 12 in a 3 1/2-minute stretch early in the game. Jason Gardner added 13 points.
Ryan Forehan-Kelly scored a career-high 20, including six of eight 3-pointers, for the Bears, who will hope for a bid to the NIT, a tournament Cal won last season. Sean Lampley and Shantay Legans added 12 apiece.
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Arizona dominated the game at the foul line, making 32-of-41 free throws, compared with Cal's 2-for-8. Arenas was 10-for-11 at the line.
After trailing by as many as 14 in the first half, the Bears rallied to cut it to 44-40 on Forehan-Kelly's 3-pointer with 13:28 to play. But Arenas' three-point play boosted the lead to 47-40.
Another 3-pointer by Forehan-Kelly sliced Arizona's lead to 57-51 with 6:18 to go, and the Bears had a chance to get closer, but Forehan-Kelly missed the front end of one-and-one with 6:02 to go. Lampley missed two free throws with 5:31 to go and Arizona leading 58-51. Arenas' 3-pointer made it 63-51 with 3:43 to play, and Cal never got closer than nine again.
Arizona shot out to a 15-6 lead behind the inside domination of Wright, who scored the last eight of a 10-0 run. The Wildcats used an 11-2 spurt to take their biggest lead, 35-21, before Forehan-Kelly's 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer cut it to 35-24.
The lone senior honored in the Wildcats' final home game was reserve guard Josh Pastner, who serves as a sort of player-coach and played the last 25 seconds. Pastner, who has his sights on becoming a college head coach by age 28, earned his bachelor's degree in 2 1/2 years and got his master's a year later.
Arizona was 41-0 in games in which Pastner played because the Wildcats were always far ahead when he finally got in the game.