By Amanda Branam
EVAN CARAVELLI/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore center Kirk Walters takes a shot over California's Rod Benson in Arizona's 97-76 win over the Golden Bears Feb. 3 in McKale Center. Benson, a junior forward-center, leads Cal in scoring and rebounds.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, March 10, 2005
California hasn't given the No. 8 Arizona men's basketball team any trouble both times the teams have met this season, but that's exactly why senior center Channing Frye sees them as so dangerous.
"You have to understand ... it's that they have nothing to lose and they're playing for an NCAA berth," he said. "I think that's probably the best thing we can realize as far as motivation. We have to play like we're the underdogs, not the 1 seed."
No. 8 seed Cal got into the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament on the last day of the regular season, winning a 63-57 overtime game over Washington State to force a tiebreaker with Oregon for the final slot in the tournament.
Oregon lost Saturday to UCLA, which caused the Ducks to lose the tiebreaker.
Junior forward-center Rod Benson leads the Golden Bears in points and rebounds, averaging 13.7 and 6.4, respectively.
In his two games against the No. 1 seed Wildcats this season, he scored 13 points and had three rebounds in Berkeley, Calif., on Jan. 6, and 12 points and five rebounds in Tucson on Feb. 3. Golden Bears junior point guard Richard Midgley did not play three games in the middle of conference play because of a shoulder sprain.
Midgley scored 14 points and dished out five assists when facing the Wildcats in Berkeley.
He scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds in Tucson in just his second game back from the injury.
"Midgley is capable of having a big game," said Arizona head coach Lute Olson. "I don't know if the shoulder has slowed him down. They have good quickness at the point guard and good quickness on the wings."
Both games against California this season were blowouts, with the Wildcats winning 87-67 in the first meeting.
Arizona shot 54.4 percent from the field in that game, getting 20 points and eight rebounds from Frye. The Wildcat defense held the Bears to 28.8 percent shooting from 3-point range. The Golden Bears averaged 31.8 percent from beyond the arc on the season.
The Wildcats came off an embarrassing upset to Washington State when they faced Cal the second time this season.
Arizona opened up the game with a 22-4 run over the first eight minutes, and Cal never came close in a 97-76 win for the Wildcats.
Arizona won six of their last seven conference games to close out the season and clinch the Pac-10 title all to itself.
"They (the Wildcats) were very excited about winning the title outright," Olson said. "I think they will be very excited with another opportunity to get better before the NCAA playoffs."
If the Wildcats win today, they play tomorrow at 6:15 p.m. against the winner of the UCLA-Oregon State game, the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, respectively.
The quarterfinals and semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament will be televised on Fox Sports Net, while the final will be aired on CBS at 3:10 p.m. Saturday.
If the Wildcats make an early exit, they travel back to Tucson to learn their seed in the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced on Sunday.