Arizona lost a game, most likely its No. 1 ranking and perhaps one of its best players.
Talk about an awful trip to the Bay Area.
No. 1 for the past eight weeks, Arizona will likely fall out of the top spot and could be without forward Brandon Ashley for the rest of the season after a 60-58 loss to California on Saturday night.
"Our guys hung in there with great effort and togetherness," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "We came up short."
Arizona (21-1, 8-1 Pac-12) went into the game on a school-record 21-game winning streak after holding off Stanford on Wednesday to start the two-game Northern California swing.
Few things went right for the Wildcats in the second half of the trip.
Arizona had a rough night shooting and couldn’t get stops when they needed them down the stretch, and junior guard Nick Johnson, the team’s catalyst, had a rare off night.
The worst news was the injury to Ashley.
Ashley injured his right foot grabbing a rebound in the opening minutes and didn’t return, spending the second half with a walking boot and crutches.
He has been crucial to Arizona’s run this season, an athletic player who can score, rebound, hit shots from the perimeter when needed and guard just about every position on the floor.
Now, the Wildcats will have to figure out how to play without him, perhaps the rest of the season.
"It’s a foot injury. It looks to be broken," Miller said after the game. "I don’t think we can say that it is right now just because we have to get the X-rays. Overall, [it’s] certainly an injury that’s going to have him out for a period of time, if not the entire year."
The Wildcats’ run this season had been characterized by their ability to pull out tight victories by clamping down on defense and hitting big shots, even on nights when they didn’t shoot well.
Arizona has struggled with its perimeter shooting at times this season and had another rough night from the arc, hitting 2 of 11. The Wildcats had trouble inside, too, fighting against Cal’s defense and missing some relatively easy shots while shooting 32 percent.
Arizona had been able to clamp down defensively on teams late in games to pull out victories numerous times this season, including the victory over the Cardinal. The Wildcats tried to do it again against the Bears, but fell short, losing when Justin Cobbs hit a fallaway jumper with 0.9 seconds left.
The loss leaves Syracuse (21-0), the likely new No. 1, and No. 4 Wichita State (23-0) as the only unbeaten teams in Division I.
"Because we’ve been in this situation so many times, we’re really comfortable. We weren’t worried at all. We were ramped up," said Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski, who had a career-high 18 points. "Cobbs made a really, really tough shot."
It didn’t help the Wildcats that Johnson wasn’t able to carry them for one of the few times this season.
He tried to pick up the slack with Ashley out, but wasn’t able to do it, scoring 4 points on 1-of-14 shooting.Next Page >
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