BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Leon Powe dominated from the start, scoring 30 points to help California move into a tie for first place in the Pac-10 with a 75-66 victory over Arizona on Thursday night.
The Golden Bears (16-6, 10-3) won their sixth straight game to move into the tie with UCLA with five games left in the regular season. Cal is looking for its first conference title since Pete Newell's final season as coach in 1959-60 and hasn't been in contention this late in the season many times since.
Arizona (15-10, 8-6) fell to fifth place in the conference with the loss, putting in jeopardy the Wildcats' streak of 21 straight NCAA tournament bids - the longest active in the nation. Cal fans chanted ``N-I-T! N-I-T!'' in the final minute.
The Wildcats have finished as low as fifth in the conference only one since 1984, but they ended up winning the national title after finishing fifth in 1996-97. Lute Olson's squad will need a strong finish to even have the opportunity to match that team's feat, starting Sunday at Stanford.
Powe took control from the opening possession, scoring on a spin move to the basket. He came up with a loose ball on the defensive end and taking it all the way with an around-the-back dribble for a lay-up and three-point play.
The Bears scored the first nine points of the game and never trailed, avenging last month's loss at Arizona and giving them a win against all nine Pac-10 opponents for the first time since 1996-97.
Arizona went more than five minutes without a field goal early in the second half as Cal turned a three-point game into a 48-36 lead on two free throws by Powe. Powe also fed DeVon Hardin for a dunk during the stretch.
The Wildcats cut it to six with about 6 minutes left on a 3-pointer by Hassan Adams, but Ayinde Ubaka answered with a 3 for Cal and the Bears went on to win for just the second time in the last 16 meetings between the schools.
Jordan Robertson added 12 points for Cal and Ubaka and Richard Midgley had 11 apiece. Powe, coming off a career-high 32 points last week against Stanford, also had 10 rebounds.
Marcus Williams led Arizona with 21 points and Ivan Radenovic added 14. Adams, the Wildcats'' leading scorer at 18.3 points per game coming into the contest, was held to seven points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Hardin got the crowd into it on defense in the first half, blocking two shots by Adams on one possession - a jumper from the top of the key and then a drive to the basket. The blocks set up Robertson's layup that made it 11-2.
Cal led 24-12 before Arizona began working its way back, taking the game into the half trailing 36-31. Powe had 16 points at the break.
Chris Rodgers, who was kicked off the team Jan. 18 by Olsen for undisclosed disciplinary reasons, scored three points off the bench.
Rod Benson, out since undergoing an operation on his right knee Jan. 20, returned for Cal and scored one point in limited action.