Arizona improved to 14-6 overall and, more importantly, to 7-3 in Pac-10 play.
Against Cal, however, Arizona didn't come out of the blocks playing poorly. The Cats were the aggressor and it showed from the tip-off on.
Arizona was successful early, going right at Cal's talented big man duo of Jamal Sampson and Solomon Hughes. Both picked up two quick fouls and were on the bench for much of the first half.
With Arizona trailing 40-35 in the second half, apparently Gardner had had enough. He scored nine of Arizona's 11 points in an 11-2 run to give the Cats their first lead (46-42) since 21-20. Gardner scored game-high 17 points, 15 of which came after halftime.
Not to be outdone, fellow juniors Luke Walton and Rick Anderson also stepped up and played very well. Walton had another marvelous all-around game with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal. Yet, it was the improved play of Anderson that may have been the key.
The redshirt junior from Long Beach had his best game in weeks with 16 points and13 rebounds, all while playing much better defense.
From the onset it was apparent that the Cats weren't going to let Cal beat them the way Connecticut and ASU beat them; no penetration and no Oregon-like three-point clinics either.
The Wildcats also forced the Bears to shoot from outside in the first half and held them to 3-12 shooting (25%). However, Arizona failed to capitalize on Cal's struggles and blew what was a 16-7 lead at the 11:43 mark. Cal fought back with an impressive 22-7 run to take a 29-23 lead with 2:13 left before the half.
Much of the reason for Cal's successful come back was sparked by instant energy off the bench from Brian Wethers and Amit Tamir, both of whom have started several games for the Bears this season.
Arizona held a 19-12 lead coming out of the under-eight minute timeout. The Wildcats were in their 3-2 zone and Cal did something Arizona has made famous—threw a lob for an alley-oop over the zone to Wethers and from then on it was all Bears. Cal went on a 17-5 run, led by Wethers' six points and Tamir's seven.
To Cal's credit, the defense the Bears played on Wildcat All-American candidate Jason Gardner in the first half was outstanding. Gardner was held to only two first-half points on 0-3 shooting from the field.
The second half was a much different story!