Cats claim the top spot in the Pac-10

In a showdown between the Pac-10's two first place teams, Arizona proved that they are still the team to beat. The Wildcats played one of their most complete games of the season to down Cal 95-80.

The Cats made a run late in the first half and continued it early in the second to put Cal away. Scoring five straight before the end of the half gave Arizona a double figure lead at half time. The Cats outscored the Golden Bears 13-5 to open the second half qne never led by less than 11 the rest of the way.

"We did a good job rebounding from that loss (to Stanford) and came out and played 40 minutes," said Channing Frye who had 12 points, 12 rebounds and three block shots.

Arizona had six players in double figures and another, Isaiah Fox with nine. Jason Gardner led the way with 18, while Salim Stoudamire and Rick Anderson each added 15.

The game was called closely by the officials and Luke Walton suffered for it. Walton was saddled with foul trouble for most of the game and failed to score in just 13 minutes of play. He did have six assists.

"It's real frustrating," said Walton. "You want to be out there having fun with your teammates. Games like this happen."

If Cal looked to the Stanford tape to find a way to beat Arizona, the Wildcats then must have watched it to find out how not to beat themselves. Arizona remedied all of the problems they had on Thursday night. They took care of the ball, committing just eight turnovers. They outrebounded Cal and hit 26-35 free throw attempts, including their first nine.

"It was a big game," Jason Gardner said. "The guys did a great job coming in tonight and staying focused."

The big three of Cal each reached double figures, but the Cats kept them contained in the pivotal first half. Brian Wethers and Amit Tamir each had two points in the first 20 minutes, while the Pac-10's best scorer, Joe Shipp was held to seven. They scored a lot in the second half, but the Wildcats had already put a nice cushion between them and the visiting Bears.

"I thought out defensive effort in the first half was as good as anyone's on their big three," Lute Olson said." The guys did a good job in doing what they needed to be doing."

Arizona wanted to get out to a fast start and did just that. The Cats scored seven of the first nine points and held a 10-8 lead. Then they went to the full court press.

Following a television timeout, Lute Olson inserted Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala. With the athletic freshmen in the lineup the Cats put on the press, forcing Cal into two turnovers and a held ball. With the added defensive pressure, the Cats scored nine straight and led 19-8.

"It was a different team out there tonight," Hassan Adams said. "We came to play."

Cal climbed back, but could not close the gap and never go closer than within three. The next 12:00 saw both teams trading blows. Neither squad could string together more than five straight points. The officials called the game extremely tight, which slowed things down. Altogether the officials whistled 25 personal fouls. The Cats feasted at the line, making 14-of-19 free throws, while Cal struggle, converting just six of their 14 chances in the first half and 2-of-21 for the game.

Arizona used a late run and as has become fashion, a last second shot, to grow their lead to 10, 40-30, at the half.

Cal missed 3-4 free throws and Hassan Adams pumped in five quick points, including a jumper off the inbounds pass and a three from the corner. The Cats called timeout to discuss their final possession, but despite Olson's planning, the play hardly resembled something from the Wildcat playbook. Gardner ran the clock down to six and gave the ball off to Isaiah Fox at the high post. Fox pivoted, but could find no takers for the ball. The Bear defenders sagged off and the 6-9 big man drove the lane converting a lay-in as time expired.

Arizona broke things open at the start of the second half. The Wildcats nailed three three-pointers and built a 53-35 lead by outscoring the Bears 13-5 in the first 2:30. Anderson opened the half the same way he opened the game, by slashing to the baseline and catching a perfect Walton pass for an easy bucket. The Cats added long balls by Stoudamire and Gardner, plus a runner in the lane by the senior point guard, to build the insurmountable lead.

Cal cut the lead to 11 thanks to a pair of Amit Tamir three-pointers, but then Gardner went to work. After a Fox put-back, Gardner assisted on two straight Wildcat dunks. First, on a fast break, Gardner found a streaking Anderson for an easy jam. On the next possession Gardner lobbed a pass to Adams who's dunk kept the crowd on their feet and forced Cal into a timeout.

The Cats built as much as a 18 point lead, but coasted to the victory playing Phil Torres, Jason Ranne and the entire second unit down the stretch. The win sends the Wildcats to the northwest where they'll take on the Washington schools to begin the second half of conference play.

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