On the bubble

TUCSON--It was a close battle from end to end, with nine ties in the second half, but it ended with California at the free throw line after using an outside shooting attack to regain and keep the lead, and down Arizona, 83-77, Thursday night in McKale Center.

TUCSON--It was a close battle from end to end, with nine ties in the second half, but it ended with California at the free throw line after using an outside shooting attack to regain and keep the lead, and down Arizona, 83-77, Thursday night in McKale Center.

A crowd of 14,729, including former coach Lute Olson in a courtside seat on the night he was honored in a halftime ceremony for his 24 years of keeping Arizona at the top of the game, left in disappointment.

Arizona dropped to 18-12 overall and 8-9 in Pac-10 play, jeopardizing its chances of continuing the program's nation-best streak of 24 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament. Cal improved to 22-8 and 11-6.

Cal, the league's best shooting squad from beyond the arc at 44 percent, showed why with a 16-for-30 effort led by guard Jerome Randle with 31 points, 24 of those on threes. He was backed by 24 points from Theo Robertson, who nailed four three-pointers, and Patrick Christopher with 12 points. Cal hit 46 percent from the field but 53 percent from beyond the arc. Randle hit eight of 11 treys.

Chase Budinger dropped in a season-high 28 points and Jordan Hill posted his 17th double-double of the year with 24 points and 13 rebounds for UA, which also had double-figures scoring from Jamelle Horne and Nic Wise and with 13 and 10, respectively.

A 9-0 run helped California turn a deficit into a five-point lead eight minutes into the second half.

A Jamelle Horne three-pointer at 16:22 put Arizona up by three, but a pair of UA turnovers in the next minute and a trio of Cal three-pointers by Theo Robertson, Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle pushed the Bears ahead, 50-45.

Jordan Hill's jumper kept the Cats close, and Chase Budinger capped a second-chance possession with a bucket to bring UA within one, 50-49, by the second media timeout at 11:12. Hill worked himself to the line and put Arizona back on top, 51-50.

The lead changed hands a few times with Hill trading buckets with Cal's shooters, and Budinger dropped in a bank shot to tie the game at 57-all with just under eight minutes left. Randle bombed one from way outside, and Budinger answered for a 60-60 knot.

Randle's three at the 5:31 mark put Cal up by three, 65-62. Hill made the second of two free throws to trim it to a one-possession game. UA had a chance to tie, but Nic Wise was called for an offensive foul. Cal worked the shot clock twice, with an offensive rebound, and Randle knocked down a wide-open three to put Cal up by five, 68-63, at a timeout at the 3:23 mark.

Budinger made a traditional three-point play at the 2:30 mark to cut the lead to two, 68-66, but Randle beat the shot clock for a trey and a 71-66 lead inside the 2-minute mark. After a fifth foul disqualified Wise on a charge, Patrick Christopher dropped in another shot from beyond the arc for a definitive lead, 74-66.

The Cats climbed to within three points three times at 76-73, 78-75, and 80-77 but the trading of points didn't help. First Christopher and then Robertson each dropped in a pair of free throws for Cal to make it a two-possession game each time, the last with 14 seconds left. Budinger dunked and Cal's Randle made one of two bonus shots for a 81-77 lead with nine seconds remaining.

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