Feb 1, 2003
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. - The Arizona Wildcats expect to lose their No. 1 national ranking next week. They're alone atop the Pac-10, though.
Jason Gardner scored 18 points to lead six Arizona players in double figures as the Wildcats rolled over No. 20 California 95-80 on Saturday.
Arizona (16-2, 8-1 Pac-10) rebounded from Thursday night's home loss to Stanford to take sole possession of first place in the conference. California (14-4, 7-2) lost both games on its Arizona trip to fall into a second-place tie with Stanford.
The Wildcats never trailed, were up by 10 at the break and led by as many as 18 in the second half.
"Defense was the difference. We got after people. We didn't let them get a lot of easy shots."
-- Luke Walton
"It was a big game," Gardner said. "We talk about when you get knocked down, how are you going to respond? We were ready. We are first in the conference and back on track."
Coach Lute Olson blamed Arizona's loss to Stanford on too many turnovers and poor free-throw shooting. The Wildcats got the message. They had eight turnovers against Cal and made 26 of 35 free throws.
"You try to figure out how you can go from 22-of-26 at Kansas to 74.3 percent today, and miss seven consecutive free throws against Stanford," Olson said. "I've said all along we should be a lot better a month from now than we are right now, but for that to happen guys have to really concentrate on doing their job."
Cal, meanwhile, was just 9-of-21 from the line.
The Bears couldn't recover from a 20-6 Arizona run that started near the end of the first half and continued into the second.
Salim Stoudamire scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, including 3-of-4 shooting on 3-pointers. Rick Anderson also scored 15 points, 10 in the second half, and made all three of his 3-pointers.
Arizona won comfortably despite a rare scoreless game for Luke Walton, who played just 13 minutes because of foul trouble. Still, Walton had six assists.
"Defense was the difference," Walton said. "We got after people. We didn't let them get a lot of easy shots. If we would have done that against Stanford, we probably would have won."
The Wildcats shot 7-of-10 from 3-point range in the second half.
Joe Shipp scored 21 points, Brian Wethers 16 and Amit Tamir 14 for the Bears.
"This is definitely frustrating," Shipp said. "We wanted to come here and get two wins and hopefully the Pac-10 lead, but we didn't do that."
Cal coach Ben Braun pointed to Arizona's 19 offensive rebounds as a big reason for the loss.
"I'm not going to allow our team to lose confidence, but I want our team to have a reality check," Braun said. "We're not going to close the season down after losing to Arizona or Arizona State. Those are two pretty good basketball teams. If we correct some areas, obviously some good things will happen."
Stoudamire sank a pair of 3-pointers as the Wildcats outscored Cal 13-5 to start the second half. His second 3 capped an 8-0 run that put Arizona up 53-35 with 17:37 to play. Gardner scored five of the eight points on a 3-pointer and a driving bank shot.
Tamir made a pair of 3-pointers to cut the lead to 62-51 with 12:42 remaining, but Arizona scored the next six points, the last four in spectacular fashion. Gardner threw a slick bounce pass to Anderson for a fast-break stuff, then lobbed one to Adams for a soaring dunk and it was 68-51 with 11:22 to go. Cal never got closer than 12 again.
Arizona jumped out to a 19-8 lead. Wethers' driving layup cut it to 33-29 with 2:24 left in the half, but Arizona finished with a 7-1 run to go up 40-30.
"Our defensive effort in the first half was probably as solid as it's been on anyone," Olson said.
Adams sank a 14-footer and a 3-pointer in the late first-half surge, then Isaiah Fox made a layup at the halftime buzzer. Cal missed five consecutive free throws before Gabriel Hughes made the second of two with 1:11 to play in the half.
Tamir, averaging 16.8 points per game, had just two points and one rebound in the first half.