TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Arizona came out of its last meeting with California a bit discombobulated, hurting from its first loss and the loss of forward Brandon Ashley for the rest of the season.
It took a little while, but the Wildcats seem to have their groove back - just at the right time.
Coming off two solid road wins, No. 3 Arizona played one of its best games of the season - certainly since Ashley went down - quickly turning its rematch with Cal into an 87-59 rout Wednesday night.
Nick Johnson had 22 points after struggling against Cal the first time and Kaleb Tarczewski added 16 points for the Wildcats, who pulled out a tough win at Utah and routed Colorado last week.
“Obviously, we played very well tonight, one of our best games of the season,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “You might make the argument that the game against Colorado and tonight’s game were the best back-to-back games we’ve played all season.”
Cal won the first meeting 60-58 on a last-second jumper by Justin Cobbs that sent the students pouring onto the court.
Arizona (26-2, 13-2 Pac-12) ran away from the Bears early in the rematch, using a big first-half run and good shooting all game to prevent the season sweep.
T.J. McConnell finished with 13 points and six assists, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson provided a lift off the bench with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Johnson also had seven rebounds and five assists after scoring four points on 1-of-14 shooting the first game against Cal.
“It feels good right now,” said McConnell, who has 22 assists and one turnover the past three games. “We’re shooting the ball well and when we do that, we’re tough to beat.”
Cal (18-10, 9-6), struggled at times against Arizona’s defensive pressure and had little chance of stopping the Wildcats at the other end to lose for the 17th time in 19 games at McKale Center.
Arizona shot 50 percent against the Bears and had a 42-25 rebounding advantage, including 15 on the offensive glass.
Cobbs led Cal with 12 points.
“They’re good; you have to give credit where credit is due,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “They were solid and a little angry having lost to us. They’re making shots now and at our place they weren’t making all their shots. They’re playing really well right now.”
Arizona wanted a little revenge after what happened in the first meeting against Cal.
The Wildcats entered the Feb. 1 game with the No. 1 ranking and a school-record 21-game winning streak. They left Berkeley with their first loss of the season - thanks to Cobbs‘ stepback jumper with 0.9 seconds left - and Ashley in a walking boot after he injured his right foot going up for a rebound in the first half.