BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Dusan Ristic scored 16 points and No. 18 Arizona overcame a sluggish and sloppy first half to beat California 67-62 on Friday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
Kobi Simmons added 14 points while Lauri Markkanen had 13 points and nine rebounds as the Wildcats (12-2, 1-0) rallied from 13 points down and used a big run coming out of halftime to extend their winning streak to six games.
The win was the 200th at Arizona for Wildcats coach Sean Miller.
Ivan Rabb had 16 points and a career-best 16 rebounds for California (9-4, 0-1).
Arizona struggled from the perimeter most of the game before Simmons provided a big lift in the second half. The freshman guard scored 10 consecutive points as part of a 15-4 run coming out of halftime, made a key save at midcourt following an inbounds play under the Wildcats basket, then fed Rawle Alkins for a late dunk to help preserve the win.
California made just nine field goals in the second half and shot 37 percent from the field overall. The Golden Bears have lost consecutive games at Haas Pavilion following a school-record 27-game winning streak.
The game, featuring two of the Pac-12’s best defensive teams, opened up following a slow first half.
Arizona led 41-36 with 14 minutes remaining before Rabb sparked a mini-run that put California back in front. After the teams traded scores, Chance Comanche scored on a three-point play with 10:33 left that put Arizona ahead for good.
The Wildcats still had to hold off a late run by the Bears. Jabari Bird’s 3-pointer pulled California within 66-62, and after a turnover near midcourt, Bird had a chance to pull the Bears closer but his 3-point attempt bounced off the front of the rim.
Bird finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Bears used their conference-leading defense to set the tone in the first half when California’s offense sputtered.
Nine days after limiting No. 12 Virginia to 22 points in the first half, the Bears limited the Wildcats to 26 and used a 15-0 run to take control.
Arizona had won five straight since losing to Gonzaga in the Naismith Hall of Fame game on Dec. 23.
Arizona: It was a lot closer than it probably should have been but the young Wildcats kept it together and made the game-changing run when they needed to. The offense wasn’t sharp early but Miller’s group responded in front of a hostile crowd on the road.
California: For the second consecutive game the Bears played a Top 25 team tight but couldn’t finish the job. Cuonzo Martin’s team continues to shine defensively, although the problems on the offensive end are making it tough.
Arizona: Takes a short trip across the San Francisco Bay to play at Stanford on Sunday night.
California: Closes out its five-game homestand by hosting Arizona State on Sunday night at Haas Pavilion.