*Arizona head coach Lute Olson has said over and over this year that the success of his team can be directly linked to how well his three junior captains play in a particular game. Normally at least two of the three are reliable on any given night but it has been rare that all three step up in the same game for a total effort.
Against Cal, that story changed. Jason Gardner, Luke Walton and Rick Anderson, played well and were instrumental in helping Arizona escape Haas Pavilion with a 10-point win.
The junior trio combined to score 46 of Arizona's 68 points, grab 30 of the Cats' 37 rebounds and handed out nine of the team's 14 assists. For a team with so many freshmen in its rotation, nights like the one the three juniors had against the Bears are almost necessary.
"Ricky and Luke were really alive tonight in terms of how they went to the boards," Olson said. "And Jason stepped up in crunch time again. He's such a winner. If he hasn't had a good first half you can pretty much count on him having a big second half. That's what he did tonight (15 points after halftime)."
II. Frye vs. Sampson: Incomplete
In one of the most anticipated freshmen match-ups of the year to date, Arizona's Channing Frye and Cal's Jamal Sampson graded out with an "Incomplete" mark.
Frye played only 18 minutes, going 2-2 from the field for five points. He also had two rebounds and two blocks while battling foul trouble throughout. He finally drew his fifth foul with 12:15 left.
Yet it was Sampson who was almost invisible on the court. The freshman from Mater Dei High School has been struggling through a bad respritory infection over the past few days and only played six minutes on Thursday night. He didn't score while only attempting one shot and he picked up three fouls to further complicate playing time issues.
"Jamal was severely under the weather tonight," Cal coach Ben Braun said. "He has a pretty bad chest cold and he had trouble the past couple days with it. He went through the shoot-around this morning but he really struggled. But he wanted to give it a shot tonight and I credit him for that. He's a tough kid. A warrior and a competitor. We missed him."
III. Will Bynum: The Highlight's Keep Coming
*Of the top ten most exciting plays of the year for Arizona so far, it is safe to assume that freshman guard Will Bynum is in seven or eight of them.
The Chicago native had two more spectacular scores against Cal, including one where he faked his defender out of his shoes on a fake spin move under the hoop and then completed the score by converting a lovely reverse lay-up.
Bynum is the type of player who flourishes in his freedom. He has struggled at times adjusting to the structure and coaching of division I basketball but has the raw ability to overcome his lack of coaching at Crane Tech in Chicago.
"Will's not the fastest learner," Arizona assistant coach Rodney Tention said earlier in the year. "But he is always listening, he always has a great attitude and he's smart enough to understand what we're trying to teach him."
"We were up 45-40 and seemed to be in a hurry for some reason. That was at the eight or nine minute mark. We made some ill advised decisions and made them against a zone defense, there's isn't an excuse for that."
"Jason Gardner came out and had a great second half for them. We held him to zero baskets in the first half...that's pretty good."
"Luke Walton kept their team in the game while we were on some runs. He kept his poise and led his team back."
"We played solid defense in the first half. I thought we played harder than Arizona did in the first half but then they came out and played harder than we did in the second half. The key was that they sustained their intensity more than we did. They hung in there and knocked down some shots and got to the line 31 times. You're doing something right if you go to the line that much. They made a commitment to get to the line and they did it."
"We started the game out well but then Cal had that stretch where they took the lead. But the last couple minutes of the first half I thought we had pretty much taken their punch and stayed up."
In talking with Ricky earlier in the week, I told him that we've got to get him moving more. We tried to get him a lot more freedom without the ball movement. As you can see with his threes, we need to get him open for more of those."