No. 2 Arizona beats California 89-61 for 18th Pac-12 win

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd was asked earlier this week whether his team would cut down the nets for winning the Pac-12 regular-season championship after Saturday’s game against California.

Only if the Wildcats won, he said.

No problem there. No. 2 Arizona closed out its first season under Lloyd in dominating fashion, crushing Cal 89-61 to become the first Pac-12 team to win 18 conference games.

Oumar Ballo scored 16 points, Bennedict Mathurin added 13 and the Wildcats celebrated the Pac-12 title they clinched on Tuesday by snipping the nets. Pelle Larsson and senior Justin Kier scored 13 each.

“From where we started and where we are now, I didn’t expect that,” said Lloyd, pointing to the Pac-12 championship trophy. “I just didn’t want to celebrate it early.”

Arizona (28-3, 18-2) sewed up its first conference title in four years with a 91-71 win over No. 16 Southern California on Tuesday, then had a sluggish first half two days later against Stanford before pulling away.

The Wildcats dominated the conference’s other Bay Area team early, building a 17-point lead midway through the first half with a 19-2 run.

Arizona shot 65% and scored 49 points in the paint to finish 17-0 at home in its first season under Lloyd – not bad for a team that started the season unranked and was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12.

“Once we got to where we needed to be, we wanted more, we were still hungry,” said Kier, who played his final home game. “We’re going to continue to be hungry until we get what we want.”

Cal (12-19, 5-15) played well for stretches without point guard Joel Brown due to a knee injury, but couldn’t recover from Arizona’s big early run. Jordan Shepherd led the Bears with 16 points.

“We got a little fatigued and made some costly errors there in the second half defensively,” Cal coach Mark Fox said. “Against a team with as much talent as they have, you cannot afford to do that.”

Arizona dominated the first meeting with Cal on Jan. 23, building a 14-point lead in the opening six minutes on the way to a 96-71 win. The rematch played out in similar fashion.

Creating transition opportunities with their defense and pounding the ball inside, the Wildcats reeled off a 19-2 run to build a 26-9 lead midway through the first half. Ballo had 11 points during the run, including three rim-shaking dunks.

Arizona cooled a bit down the stretch of the first half – one field goal over the final 4:20 – but Mathurin made consecutive 3-pointers early in the second to get the rout going again. Arizona hit seven of its first 10 shots to stretch the lead to 66-46 and hit 15 of 23 in the second half.

Cal had its worst offensive game of the season to kick off the final weekend of the regular season, having shot 31% in a 27-point loss to Arizona State on Thursday.

The Bears brought their offensive struggles down Interstate 10 to Tucson, clanging one shot after another early. Cal bounced back from Arizona’s big run and started hitting a few shots, closing with a 14-4 run to pull within 40-31 at halftime. Aside from a few more good offensive stretches in the second half, the Bears but couldn’t stop Arizona defensively.

“Some of those costly errors early, if we could have cleaned those up, we could have been even at the half,” Fox said. “Our second-half defense, we just gave up too big of a (shooting) percentage.”

BIG PICTURE

California: Closes the season with four losses in five games. The Bears had some good stretches in one of college basketball’s toughest road venues, though, which could help them in the Pac-12 Tournament next week.

Arizona: Capped one of the best home seasons in Pac-12 history with a dominating performance. Now on to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament, where the Wildcats will be hoping to lock up a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.

BAL’S IMPACT

Arizona’s Adama Bal has seen limited time during his freshman season as Lloyd has tried to acclimate the French guard to the college game.

The athletic 6-foot-6 Bal has made strides in practice and Lloyd rewarded him with extensive playing time.

Bal entered the game early, hit his first shot and scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting in 17 minutes.

“It’s kind of like when you have a talented pitcher and you leave him in the minors until he’s ready,” Lloyd said. “He was ready.”

UP NEXT

California: Opens the Pac-12 tournament Wednesday.

Arizona: The Wildcats are the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and have a first-round bye; the next game is Thursday’s quarterfinals against the Arizona State-Stanford winner.

No. 3 Arizona gets another blowout, beating California 96-71

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BERKELEY, Calif.- Christian Koloko had 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks to lead No. 3 Arizona past California 96-71 on Sunday afternoon.

Bennedict Mathurin added 14 points and eight rebounds for Arizona (16-1, 6-0 Pac-12), while Oumar Ballo scored 14 and Kerr Krissa had 13 with four 3-pointers.

The Wildcats are off to their best start since winning 21 straight to open the 2013-14 season. This season’s only loss came against then-No. 19 Tennessee on Dec. 22.

“It’s what you hope for on the road, that you come out and, from start to finish, your team is solid and they execute the plan,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd. “We did a really good job of dictating what they were doing on the offensive end, and then on our end of the floor getting into our movement.”

Arizona won handily despite being without second-leading scorer Azuolas Tubelis, who suffered a lower-body injury Thursday against Stanford. It hardly mattered.

The Wildcats had a 14-point lead six minutes into the game, were ahead 21 at halftime and led by 29 on the way to their 10th consecutive win over the Bears.

Up next for Arizona: Its toughest stretch of the season, with two upcoming games against No. 9 UCLA and another against No. 16 USC. Justin Kier, who had 10 points and six rebounds on Sunday, said all the Wildcats have to do is “go play our game.”

“If you look too deep into these games, that’s where you go out and try to do things that you’re not supposed to do,” Kier said. “We’re not going to change up anything.”

Jordan Shepherd scored 21 points for the Golden Bears (9-10, 2-6).

California coach Mark Fox was ejected in the first half after picking up two technical fouls. At one point, a clearly angry Fox walked onto the court and yelled toward a referee before an assistant walked Fox back to the bench.

“My frustration wasn’t just about tonight. My frustration was (about) some things that built up to it,” Fox said. “The official decided, like in third grade, to instigate a staring contest and, like in third grade, I took the bait and got my second technical and put our team in a tough spot.”

Cal made its best push coming out of halftime and got within 56-40, but Kriisa made a pair of 3s and Arizona scored 13 straight to pull away.

Kriisa’s fourth 3-pointer put the Wildcats ahead 78-49.

With a small but vocal group of Arizona fans in Haas Pavilion, the Wildcats went on runs of 17-3 and 15-3 in the first half on their way to a fifth consecutive blowout.

Mathurin provided a bulk of the early scoring against the Pac-12’s top scoring defense but it was the Wildcats’ big tandem of Koloko and Ballo that did the most damage. The two 7-footers combined for 20 points and eight rebounds in the first half to help Arizona go up 48-27.

“I’ve been working with Oumar every day after practice,” Koloko said. “We’ve got some connection. It’s great to see him play the way he played today and the way he played against Stanford.”

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: With Gonzaga and Auburn both idle, there’s little chance the Cats will move up in the rankings – but another lopsided victory for Tommy Lloyd’s team put them in good position heading into their toughest stretch of the Pac-12 schedule. Three of the next four games are against Top 25 teams (two against No. 9 UCLA), with the other against rival Arizona State. Arizona’s only scare Sunday came when Kier took a hard fall in the first half and had to be helped to the locker room. He returned in the second half.

California: Whatever momentum the Bears built in the early season has been erased by their fifth straight loss. Fox’s ejection was understandable. Cal missed 10 of its first 12 shots and trailed by 24 when he got tossed. The Bears haven’t beaten a Top 5 team since 2014 when they defeated No. 1 Arizona.

UP NEXT

Arizona: At No. 9 UCLA on Tuesday.

California: At No. 9 UCLA on Thursday.

Overlooked Pac-12 teams making noise in NCAA Tournament

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After living on the fringes of the AP Top 25 during the regular season, Pac-12 teams are making a statement in the NCAA Tournament.

All five Pac-12 schools in the bracket advanced to the round of 32, including UCLA winning two games already. The 11th-seeded Bruins knocked off Michigan State in the First Four and then upset sixth-seeded BYU in the first round. It’s only the third time in conference history the Pac-12 has advanced five teams to the round of 32.

UCLA coach Mick Cronin said it’s about time the conference gets its due.

“You’re finding out that the Pac-12 not being ranked all year was an absolute joke,” Cronin said. “And some people ought to be ashamed of themselves. Now, maybe people (in the East) can’t stay up late, and I don’t blame them because I can’t either. So maybe people can’t stay up for our games.”

Oregon State, the Pac-12 Tournament champion, came in as a 12 seed and earned its first NCAA Tournament win in nearly four decades with a rout of fifth-seeded Tennessee. Fifth-seeded Colorado had no trouble with No. 12 Georgetown, and sixth-seeded USC took care of No. 11 Drake.

Seventh-seeded Oregon advanced after positive COVID-19 tests forced VCU out of the tournament.

The stacked Big 12 went 5-1 and would have run the table in the first round if third-seeded Texas hadn’t been upended by No. 14 Abilene Christian on Saturday night. The Big Ten went 6-2 but took some lumps. Second-seeded Ohio State was sent home by 15 Oral Roberts in the biggest upset of the opening round, and fourth-seeded Purdue fell to 13th-seeded North Texas.

The Big Ten misery continued when Illinois, the top seed in the Midwest, was beaten by eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago in the second round Sunday.

THE OTHER OHIO

Ohio coach Jeff Boals says there’s plenty of room on the Bobcats bandwagon for everyone, including Buckeyes fans.

“We’ll take every Buckeye fan that wants to keep cheering,” Boals said a day after the West Region’s 13th-seeded Bobcats’ first-round upset of fourth-seeded Virginia left them the last Ohio-based school in the tournament.

“I think somewhere scarlet can turn into green,” he added, referring to Ohio State’s and Ohio’s colors.

Boals means that as no slight to Ohio State. The second-seeded Buckeyes lost 75-72 to 15th seed Oral Roberts on Friday.

Boals maintains a soft spot for the in-state rival after spending seven seasons as an assistant on Thad Matta’s staff at Ohio State from 2009-16.

Matta attended the Bobcats’ win.

“It meant the world to me. I saw him before the game introduction and gave him a little fist bump,” Boals said. “I would not be here without him.”

BATTLE FOR LA

Southern California coach Andy Enfield avoided mentioning UCLA when asked how a 72-56 win over Drake in the first round had the potential of increasing the Trojans’ presence back home.

Enfield said his team deserves the attention.

“We have 45 wins the last two years, which is third in the country behind Baylor and Kansas,” said Enfield, who was the Pac-12 coach of the year this season, the first USC coach to be so honored since George Raveling in 1992.

“So after a two-year break, this meant a lot to our program,” he added, noting the Trojans would likely have secured a berth last year with a 22-9 record had the tournament not been canceled because of the pandemic.

USC will face third-seeded Kansas on Monday.

GAINING TRACTION

First, a meeting with NCAA President Mark Emmert. Down the road, maybe an audience with President Joe Biden.

Those are among the hopes of Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon. He’s among the players leading the way in a social media effort to raise awareness about inequities in college sports.

Bohannon, Isaiah Livers of Michigan and Geo Baker of Rutgers helped start a movement that calls for rules changes. The hashtag (hash)NotNCAAProperty was trending on social media.

Bohannon promised other ideas moving forward. He said the players involved in the campaign are hoping to meet with Emmert within the next few weeks.

“It’s really important what we did, to continue to create awareness,” Bohannon said. “You saw from the women’s standpoint, a couple days ago, the women speaking out about the weight room being different. If you look at that, that was just absolutely ridiculous. Look at Mark Emmert, he was nowhere to be found to answer any questions. … At the end of the day, a leader’s got to step up and lead and he wasn’t there again to state his reasoning behind it all.”

Emmert is open to the conversation.

An NCAA spokesperson said in a statement Sunday that the NCAA chief “would be happy to connect either virtually or in person when appropriate with any student-athletes who want to engage.”

THE BIG STAGE

The underdogs from Oregon State got into the spirit of playing at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Hours before their game against Oklahoma State on Sunday, the Beavers posted a video on Twitter of 7-foot-1 center Roman Silva carrying 6-3 guard Gianni Hunt over to the basket to measure the rim’s height. Coach Wayne Tinkle also helped with the measuring.

It was an homage to a scene in the movie “Hoosiers” that was shot at Hinkle.

Oregon State beats No. 23 Colorado 70-68 for first title

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LAS VEGAS — Wayne Tinkle shuffled across toward the sideline, the streamers wrapped around his ankles creating a confetti wake. Remnants from a cut-down net dangled around his neck as the Oregon State coach heaved the game ball into the stands.

On the receiving end was his son and former player, Tres, sitting among other family members.

All those years of building, the ups and downs of a pandemic-altered season, and the Beavers were finally champions.

Picked to finish last, Oregon State is a conference champion for the first time, winning the Pac-12 Tournament title by holding off No. 23 Colorado 70-68 Saturday night.

“This has been the most emotional year in my life and probably for all of us,” Tinkle said. “It’s just incredible that we have gotten to this level and we know why we have. It’s a pretty neat deal.”

Needing three wins in three days to end a four-year NCAA Tournament drought, the Beavers (17-12) built confidence with each step along The Strip.

Oregon State opened its first conference title game in 33 years with a flurry of 3-pointers and withstood a late push by Colorado (22-8) to become the first Pac-10/12 team to win the conference title after being picked to finish last.

Maurice Calloo gave the Beavers a huge boost with leading scorer Ethan Thompson in foul trouble, scoring 15 points after managing 10 the eight previous games combined.

“We have been through a lot of ups and downs as a team and we were able to overcome it,” Calloo said. “Today it shows that when we stick together we can achieve anything.”

Oregon State’s gritty display put a damper on Colorado’s bid for its first Pac-12 Tournament title since 2012. The Buffaloes should hear their named get called on Selection Sunday, but Pac-12 champions would have had a nicer ring to it heading to Indianapolis.

Colorado pulled within 68-66 on McKinley Wright IV’s 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left and had a chance when Oregon State’s Roman Silva hit 1 of 2 free throws. Wright’s halfcourt heave sailed over the backboard, sending the Beavers charging onto the floor.

Wright led Colorado with 18 points.

“We came here to win a championship and we came up short,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “They played better than we did tonight. We just weren’t good enough.”

The underdog Beavers were given little shot outside of Corvallis, overlooked, underappreciated and picked to look up at the rest of the league.

Tinkle promised his team wouldn’t finish last and they proved him right, entering the conference tournament as the No. 6 seed. The Beavers clawed their way out of a 16-point hole to beat UCLA in the conference tournament opener and upended top-seeded Oregon in the semifinals.

Oregon State opened the title game with a 3-point spree, hitting six of its first nine and had an early nine-point lead. A cooling trend followed, yet the Beavers still made half their shots for 33-28 halftime lead.

Oregon State kept making shots – mostly inside – and survived a six-minute stretch with Thompson on the bench to stay in front. The Beavers had some tense moments late, but can call themselves conference tournament champions for the first time.

“When you’re patient, when you stay together, when you roll with the punches, eventually this is what it leads to and we have proven that,” Tinkle said.

Colorado was picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll despite the return of Wright, one of the toughest, steadiest guards in college basketball.

Behind Wright and big man Evan Battey, Colorado finished third in the Pac-12, then had a pair of down-to-the-wire wins over California and No. 23 USC in the conference tournament.

The Buffaloes had a hard time slowing the Beavers in the title game, but also hit half their shots (13 of 26) to stay within reach at halftime.

Wright helped keep Colorado within reach down to the wire, but the Buffalos made too many mistakes down the stretch and came up one shot short.

“Collectively, probably we were playing a little uptight and we just failed on some of those turnovers and bad shots,” said Battey, who had 16 points.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon State completed an unexpected run to its first conference title with confident game against one of the Pac-12’s best defensive teams.

The Buffaloes kept hanging around after falling behind early and nearly pulled off the comeback.

CALLOO’S LIFT

Calloo had a breakout game when Oregon State needed it most.

The 6-foot-10 junior was a starter early in the season, but had been mostly a complementary player during the Pac-12 season.

With Thompson limited to seven points, Calloo helped push the Beavers the lead and hit 6 of 11 shots overall.

“It’s not easy when you go somewhere because you want to be a big part of it, but to his credit he never went south on us,” Tinkle said “He continued to work to try to get better every day.”

UP NEXT

Oregon State will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.

Colorado also should get an NCAA Tournament nod.

No. 4 Stanford women top No. 9 Arizona, wrap up Pac-12 title

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STANFORD, Calif. — Stanford spent two months on the road this season because of local health department restrictions on sports – a major reason why winning the Pac-12 Conference title was deeply meaningful for Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer’s team.

Among the many championships on VanDerveer’s resume, this was one of the most special.

Kiana Williams scored 15 points and No. 4 Stanford clinched its first regular-season league title in seven years, beating ninth-ranked Arizona 62-48 on Monday night.

“I’m glad I was wearing my mask. I have to say I get a little emotional because it’s such a great thing that this team has accomplished,” VanDerveer said. “But not only that, it’s how they have been as teammates, how they have been mature. It’s been amazing, so you want good things for people who are like that. I’m really proud of the leadership of our team. I’m really proud of the sisterhood. They really care about each other, the unselfishness. And I told our team that. There’s not a team I’ve wanted it so badly for with this team.”

Lexie Hull added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Cardinal (21-2, 18-2 Pac-12), who won their 10th straight game to capture the program’s first league title since 2014. Oregon won the past three.

“I think for all of us it means so much. The two months we were on the road we were around each other and that was it. We really grew closer and we were a family, and we still are,” Hull said. “We care for each other so much that winning something like this means a lot to us.”

Arizona star Aari McDonald scored 20 points despite a slow start and missing all six of her 3-point tries. She began 1 for 8, was 2 of 11 at halftime as her team trailed 31-25, and finished 8 of 24.

“She did hit her little pull-up, but we were willing to live with that,” VanDerveer said.

The Wildcats (15-3, 13-3) went more than four minutes without scoring late in the first half, missing five straight field goals during one stretch and 10 of 11 as they finished the half shooting 29% (8 for 28).

“They made Aari really work to take pull-up jumpers, which is a really hard shot with congestion. It wasn’t easy,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “We need some other productivity. They made us pay for the little mistakes. We didn’t think we played our best game. They make you do that. They make you play ugly.”

Arizona’s second seven-game winning streak of the season ended just like the first one, with a loss to Stanford. The Wildcats were 7-0 before they took a lopsided loss at home to the Cardinal on Jan. 1.

“We’ve got to get better, work on the little things, go back and watch film,” McDonald said. “There’s a lot of basketball left to be played.”

Haley Jones had 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals for Stanford but also committed seven of her team’s 16 turnovers.

Stanford began 5 for 14 to 4 of 13 by Arizona as the teams were tied at 13 after one quarter. Only six free throws were shot in the first half, the Wildcats going 4 for 4 and Stanford 0 for 2.

“We have a great conference and we’re really proud of winning our regular season,” VanDerveer said. “Now we want to go to Las Vegas and win the tournament.”

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: The Wildcats surrendered 24 points in the paint to Stanford. … Arizona had won five of its last eight against Top-10 opponents and six of nine against Top-25 competition. … McDonald has scored in double figures in 84 consecutive games, longest active streak in the country. … The Wildcats suffered just their 10th defeat in the last 55 games.

Stanford: Freshman F Cameron Brink fouled out with 2:16 left, contributing 10 points and seven rebounds. … Stanford has not lost at home to the Wildcats since a 68-65 defeat on Jan. 6, 2001. … The Cardinal are 5-1 against ranked opponents this season. … Stanford secured the No. 1 seed and a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. … The Cardinal shot 57.9% against Arizona State on Friday – their highest percentage of the season – then followed that up by shooting 36% on Monday.

UP NEXT

Arizona: Closes out the regular season at rival Arizona State on Sunday.

Stanford: Hosts California on Sunday to conclude the regular-season slate.

Williams scores 40, leads WSU over Stanford in 3 OTs, 85-76

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PULLMAN, Wash. — Noah Williams scored a career-high 40 points and Washington State outlasted Stanford 85-76 in triple overtime on Saturday.

Williams, who scored his previous career high of 32 in the Cougars’ win over Cal on Thursday, made 12 of 35 shots, including 8 of 18 from the arc, and 8 of 10 free throws with nine turnovers. His 40 points were the most for WSU since Klay Thompson scored 43 in 2011. The sophomore’s father, Guy Williams, scored what was then a WSU-record 43 points in 1983. The record is 45 by Brian Quinnett in 1986.

Efe Abogidi scored five points, Aljaz Kunc added a bucket and Williams scored the game’s final points on a floater as Washington State (14-10, 7-10 Pac-12) blanked Stanford 9-0 in the final overtime.

Abogidi finished with 14 points and Kunc and Andrej Jakimovski 11 each with Jakimovski adding nine assists and Dishon Jackson 10 rebounds.

The Cougars were outshot 52% to 36% but had 12 more rebounds, six more 3-pointers and made 18 of 23 at the line to Stanford’s 9 of 18. They ended a nine-game losing streak to Stanford (14-9, 10-7) and dealt a blow to the on-the-bubble Cardinal’s NCAA Tournament hopes. And they did it all without their their leading scorer, Isaac Bonton (18.4 ppg), out for the third consecutive game with an ankle injury.

Stanford’s Oscar Da Silva, the Pac-12’s second-leading scorer coming in at 19.1 points per game, finished with 11 in 28 minutes of play before fouling out in the second overtime. Michael O’Connell scored 17 points, Jaiden Delaire 15 and Spencer Jones and Daejon Davis 10 each.

Williams hit a 3-pointer with six seconds left to send the game into overtime. Stanford had the ball with 25 seconds left in the first OT but was harassed into a shot-clock violation to send it into a second extra period tied at 68-all. The second OT ended up at 76-all after Stanford’s Delaire drove and scored with 22 seconds left and Williams missed at the rim.

WSU’s victory clinched the Cougars’ first winning season since 2010-11.

WSU is at Arizona on Thursday, while Stanford takes on Oregon