Sean Miller Gets 200th Win; Arizona defeats Cal 67-62, fans in Haas go nuts!

Dec 30, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; The Arizona Wildcats celebrate their victory against the California Golden Bears at Haas Pavilion. Arizona defeated California 67-62. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 30, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; The Arizona Wildcats celebrate their victory against the California Golden Bears at Haas Pavilion. Arizona defeated California 67-62. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports /

The Arizona Wildcats traveled to Berkeley for their Pac-12 opener. Coming in as an underdog Arizona knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

It wasn’t the prettiest, or cleanest of games, but the Arizona Wildcats found a way. After a very rough shooting performance, Arizona trailed by six after the first half.  However, in the second half, the Wildcats clawed their way back to win their Pac-12 opener 67-62 over Cal.

The win also marked the 200th win for Sean Miller at Arizona. Also, keep in mind, Sean Miller gets this win a bit faster than Lute did while at Arizona.

The first half was ugly and sloppy. Arizona’s shots were blocked, stripped, or they flat-out missed at the rim. Kingsley Okoroh disrupted the inside shots and made Arizona uncomfortable. He was a big reason Arizona missed 15 of their first 18 shots.

After going up 6-4, the Wildcats surrendered 15 points in a row, allowing Cal to lead 19-6 at the 9:23 mark. Arizona would then go on a bit of a run to close within four points, but Cal quickly responded and pushed their lead.

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At halftime the Golden Bears held a 32-26 lead. Sophomore star Ivan Rabb led Cal with eight points and seven rebounds. He would finish the night with 16 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

When Rabb was on the floor, Cal was a completely different team. The offense was in sync, the defense was intense, but once he left, Cal couldn’t keep up the momentum.

Dusan Ristic was the go-to player for Arizona in the first half. He finished the night with 16 points, but his 10 in the first half kept the Wildcats within striking distance.

When Miller sensed his team was getting rattled and needed to calm down, he fed the ball inside to Ristic, and with the outside shot not falling, the Wildcats took their attack to the paint.

After shooting 37 percent in the first half, Arizona improved their shooting to 53 percent in the second. Miller made the much-needed halftime adjustments and the Wildcats came out swinging, going right back to attacking the paint.

Kobi Simmons made his presence known by scoring 10 straight points. He helped push Arizona to a 40-36 lead with 15 minutes left in the half. During this run, Rabb was sitting with three fouls. Knowing they couldn’t let this go to waste, Miller pushed his players to continue their attack.

Rabb would re-enter the game after Arizona took the lead, and with Cal needing him in a big way, he delivered. Once he set foot back on the floor, he took over. His mid-range jumper was falling, rebounds and put-backs were there, and that helped Cal retake the lead 43-42 around the 11 minute mark.

With momentum in favor for the Golden Bears, Arizona needed a player to step up to make a big play. That player was Chance Comanche.

Chance wasn’t having the best game and was getting beat by Rabb and Okoroh most of the night. He seemed to get lost and make bad decisions on defensive rotations. But if he was frustrated, he didn’t show it. He went right at Rabb with a beautiful drop-step post, scoring and drawing a crucial fourth foul on Rabb. To top it off, Chance converted the and-one with Rabb now having to sit yet again.

Once Rabb sat after his fourth foul, the Wildcats turned up the defensive pressure, went on the attack, and didn’t look back. The other freshmen stepped up to help seal the game. Lauri Markannen finished the game with a double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds. Late in the game he hit a deep three over Rabb to keep pushing Arizona ahead.

Rawle Alkins was having a rough night before he took an assist from Kobi and finished strong over Okoroh. He drew the foul as well and helped push the lead to 62-55 with two minutes remaining. Alkins finished the night with 10 points and nine rebounds, coming up big in the final minutes.

The win was sealed with just under a minute left thanks to a jumper from Dusan, but it wouldn’t be a typical Arizona game without the Cardiac Cats dropping by. Jabari Bird sank a deep three and almost drained another after some sloppy passing with under 30 seconds remaining. Fortunately for Arizona, it was only a minor scare.

Not to be ignored, Parker Jackson-Cartwright made his return to the court Friday night as well. Even though Arizona continued to win games, the team definitely missed his presence the past four weeks. In 20 minutes, he finished with two points, four assists and three rebounds. It also wasn’t a coincidence that Arizona only had eight turnovers in the game.

The game was a tale of two halves. Miller and his Wildcats came out from a hostile environment with a huge conference-opening win. PJC is back and looked efficient in his limited time playing.

Arizona will continue their Bay Area trip up to Palo Alto to take on Stanford Sunday evening. The Cardinal will be hungry after losing to ASU, and Arizona should feel confident after a solid start.

Next: Arizona Basketball Player Grades Thus Far

Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. MST. You can watch the game on the Pac-12 Network. BEAR DOWN!