Cats in conference finals

There is an old sports adage that says it is tough to beat a team three times in a season. While it may not have been easy, Arizona controlled the game in their 90-78 win over Cal to advance to the finals of the Pac-10 Tournament.

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The Wildcats controlled the pace and never trailed in the game. Arizona shot the ball well, and despite being out rebounded, was in the driver's seat throughout. Jason Gardner scored 25 and Luke Walton added 20, but the key for the Cats was the 20 points from bench players.

With Salim Stoudamire nursing a strained hip flexor, Will Bynum played a greater role and contributed 10 points.

"Every time I lift my leg it just kills me," Stoudamire said after the contest. "I'll get some rest tonight and put some ice on it hopefully I'll be ready tomorrow."

Arizona began the game as the model of efficiency, scoring on eight of their first nine possessions. Gardner was the catalyst scoring seven points and dishing out an perfect pass to Frye for an easy dunk. Rick Anderson was aggressive on the boards, tipping in two offensive rebounds. During the streak Arizona rattled off seven straight points to jump out to an early 19-11 lead.

"We moved the ball real well," Gardner said of the Wildcats' offensive success.

Brian Wethers and Joe Shipp were the story for Cal. Both seemed to score at will from the baseline. The two players both had a number of impressive drives. Wethers, especially, was dangerous utilizing the glass on repeated bank shots.

The two were particularly potent in the first half. Following a Shantay Legans three-pointer, the duo combined to score the next 21 California points. Wethers, who averages just nine points a game, pumped in 17 first half points.

"In the first half Wethers killed us," Lute Olson said. "He and Shipp were a real difficult task for us. Both of them played excellent."

Despite the two hot Bears, the Cats continued to maintain the lead. Arizona built up a 10-point lead thanks to two reserve players. Dennis Latimore slammed home an offensive rebound, Will Bynum added a mid-range jumper and then Latimore knocked down a jump hook that put the Cats up 30-20.

"Dennis Latimore came in and did a great job," Anderson said. "We got a nice team effort."

Latimore finished with six-points and five rebounds.

"With each game I feel more comfortable and confident on the court," said Latimore.

The Wildcats continued their trend of clutch shots at the end of the first half. The teams traded dunks, but Bynum drained a three at the buzzer to extend the Wildcats lead to 47-33 as the teams headed to the locker room for the intermission.

Arizona could not shake Cal. The Wildcats built up double figure leads, only to see the Bears cut them down again. A Walton three-pointer gave the Cats their biggest lead of the game at 61-46, but the Bears went on a 9-3 run. Ryan Forehan-Kelly's three-pointer cut the lead to single digits and the Cats only led 64-55.

Down 10, Shipp scored four straight points to cut it to a single-digit margin again. Following a Shipp put-back, the Bears trailed just 77-71 with 3:30 to play.

It's as close as the Bears would get. Arizona outscored Cal 13-7 down the stretch to earn their place in the tournament finals.

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