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50 Year Drought Maybe Over?

Cal Makes Statement as Pac-10’s Best

By Lance Epstein

TUCSON, Ariz.—As injured Arizona forward Kevin Parrom (hurt foot) sat in his dorm room updating his facebook status during the game, the California Golden Bears made a definitive statement to the NCAA selection committee.

For perhaps the first time all season, the Pac-10 appears to have a legitimate NCAA tourney team in the form of Pac-10 leading Cal. The Golden Bears (19-9, 11-5) steamed rolled Arizona 95-71 for a chance to clinch their first Pac-10 title in 50 years.

"They knew the magnitude of this game, and felt pretty good," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said.

While Cal has a chance to clinch a share of the Pac-10 title against Arizona State on Saturday, the Wildcats seem be lacking confidence and even worse just going through the motions of the game.

"We came out and played with no confidence, and we were playing against a team that was ratcheted up and really eager to perform," Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller said. "It's a big weekend for them. They have a lot of older players and a chance to win a championship. So early on, it was two teams in different places."

The back ally mugging by the Bears began with a 33-9 run, which took the game from an 8-8 tie to a 41-17 lead. During the knock out blow to the Cats, Cal forward Patrick Christopher scored 10 points and this teammate Theo Robertson chimed in with 11 points (at one point scoring eight consecutive points on two 3-pointers and a jumper).

With the scoreboards showing a 24-point deficit with just under six minutes left in the first half, rarely used guard Brandon Lavender and Derrick Williams attempted to pull the Wildcats back into game. Arizona finished the half on a 14-2 run, cutting the Bears lead in half.

The Wildcats carried the momentum into the second half as senior point guard Nic Wise trimmed the Cal lead to eight on a three-point play. From that point on, it became the Jerome Randle show, which showcased Randle’s three-point range.

Although the Bears were dismantling the Wildcats defense in the first half, Randle only contributed five points on 1-of-4 shooting. That immediately changed as Randle ignited a 20-5 Golden Bears run by hitting three consecutive three-pointers. His third three of the trifecta came from what seemed to be Oakland.

More impressive than hitting three consecutive three-pointers was Randle scoring 17 of the bears 20 points during that stretch.

"Jerome hit some tough shots, some big shots, and that's what great players do," UA guard MoMo Jones said. "He showed a lot of people he should be Pac-10 player of the year. You can't take nothing away from him."

Randle’s excellence extended the Bears lead to 23 points, a lead that was sustained throughout the rest of the game. The lead was kept intact by center Jamal Boykins dominating the Cats in the paint. Boykins notched a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the upper classman consisting of Jamelle Horne and Wise combined for 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting for the Cats. However, underclassmen Derrick Williams continued to shine putting up 17 points and six rounds.

Fellow freshman guard Lamont Momo Jones had an inspiring game. Jones contributed 10 points, five rebounds, four assist and only committed one turnover. In a pleasant surprise, Lavender hit 4-of-5 three pointers and finished with 14, just two points shy of his career high.

Even with the upper classmen performing below expectations, the team defense or lack thereof was a major disappointment for Miller. For the game, the Bears shot 56.7 percent from the field. To make matters worse, Cal nailed 10-of-21 three pointers.

Part of the problem is their toughness disappeared. A main reason for that is Parrom was watching the game in Tucson, pondering what he saw from the TV. Parrom brings a New York attitude and swagger to the Wildcats. He instills a mind-set of no easy baskets and to never giving up.

Even if Parrom happened to take the court yesterday, it probably was not enough for the Wildcats who have lost 4-of-5 and allowed their last two opponents to shoot above 50 percent.

Arizona plays Stanford on Saturday afternoon and with a chance to get back to .500. It is the first time since Jan. 14 Arizona will take the court below .500 at 13-14 (7-8 in the Pac-10). To compound the frustration of fans and Miller, the Wildcats find themselves in the midst of a three game losing streak.

Miller might have said it best after the disheartening loss. This is the time where players have to do soul-searching, play with passion and demonstrate the appreciation to wear an Arizona uniform.

"There's no easy solution to our situation right now as much you just continue to work and coach and play," Miller said. "This is a time when you're able to learn a lot about your players, which guys stick it out, who continue to fight."

When you are at the top of the mountain and everything is going right, it is easy and great. However, when things are at their lowest and darkest points like the Wildcats situation, character, pride and respect must be earned.

The ones that stick it out and fight through the struggles will see their playing time rise, while the ones who do not… we’ll they might not be around next year.

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