No. 4 Arizona is likely looking to take out some frustration after its first loss of the season, which puts winless California in an even tougher spot when the teams meet Sunday in Tucson, Ariz.
The Wildcats (6-1, 0-1 Pac-12) were riding high off a big rise in the polls and coming off the championship of the Maui Invitational when they ran into a Utah brick wall on Thursday night.
Arizona, which entered the matchup leading the country in shooting percentage (60.3) and scoring (97.5 points per game), hit just 35.2 percent from the floor in an 81-66 loss.
“I don’t know if we were fat and happy, or had the Maui hangover, but whatever it was, it wasn’t right and it wasn’t good enough,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We have great dudes, and we’re a high character program, so we’re going to bounce back from this for sure.”
The Wildcats could bounce back in a huge way against Cal (0-8, 0-1), which is off to the worst start in program history despite soft spots in its non-conference schedule that included UC Davis, UC San Diego, Southern and Texas State.
The Bears, who haven’t eclipsed 66 points in any game this season, dropped their conference opener Wednesday night with a 66-51 setback to visiting Southern California.
USC had a 20-0 run to put the game away in the second half, as Cal went eight minutes without scoring.
“Quite frankly, I think, we ran out of gas,” Bears coach Mark Fox said. “We had no juice at the end.”
Bad offense has been a season-long theme for the short-handed Bears, who are averaging 57.5 points per game and shooting 38.7 percent from the floor — including a mere 28.8 percent from 3-point range.
The offense revolves around Devin Askew, who has either led or tied for top honors in the team’s scoring in each game. He’s averaging 17.5 points and takes almost a third of the team’s shots.
Arizona, meanwhile, has waves of offense. The Wildcats love to play fast, unlike the Bears, and thrive by feeding their post players in transition. Big men Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis are each averaging 19.4 points per game.
Courtney Ramey is averaging 14.8 points, while Kerr Kriisa contributes 13.7 points and 7.7 assists per game.
Lloyd will be looking for high energy from the start against Cal after being outplayed by Utah.
“Overall our enthusiasm and our energy weren’t at an elite level,” Lloyd said. “And if you do that and you let the other team play harder than you and smarter than you, you’re going to struggle.”
Arizona also struggled from the perimeter against the Utes, making just 4 of 28 from 3-point range. Ramey was 3 of 8 from behind the arc.
Arizona has won 11 consecutive games against Cal and has an eight-game winning streak in the series at McKale Center.
–Field Level Media