Late Turnover Dooms Cal as 'Cats Deny Bears Sweep in Arizona

Photo: <b>Theo Robertson</b> scored a career-high 27 points in the Bears' loss to Arizona in Tucson. Cal has still never defeated both the Arizona schools on the road since joining the Pac-10.
Nick Fradkin/Staff
Theo Robertson scored a career-high 27 points in the Bears' loss to Arizona in Tucson. Cal has still never defeated both the Arizona schools on the road since joining the Pac-10.

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Cal 72
Arizona 76

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- A player bounced back, a ball bounced out and a crown bounced away.

Theo Robertson scored a career-high 27 points against Arizona but also had two turnovers, one of which may have cost the Cal men's basketball team a historic victory.

With 14.5 seconds left and the Bears down by two points, Robertson received an in-bounds pass from Jorge Gutierrez along the baseline but lost the ball off his foot in tight quarters.

Cal was then forced to foul Wildcats point guard Nic Wise, who sank two free throws with 10.7 seconds left to seal his team's 76-72 win on Sunday afternoon at McKale Center.

Midway through their four-game road trip, the Bears (14-7, 6-3 in the Pac-10) no longer sit alone atop the conference standings. With Sunday's loss, they are now tied with Arizona halfway through the regular season.

And, as close as they came, they've still never swept the Arizona schools on the road since joining the Pac-10.

"I don't think we played with a sense of urgency towards the end," senior Patrick Christopher said. "Offensively, down the stretch, we made some turnovers in crunch time."

In a tight game that featured nine ties and 11 lead changes, those turnovers seemed to make the difference.

In fact, Cal had only one more lost possession than the Wildcats, but more than half of the team's turnovers came after halftime.

Christopher lost the handle with less than two minutes left in the game, and Arizona capitalized when Derrick Williams tied the game at 69-69 on a powerful two-handed dunk.

Then, after Wise made a two-pointer off the glass and Jerome Randle drained three free throws, Wise converted a three-point play after being fouled by Randle with 26.3 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 74-72 edge.

"Nic did what you love every old, senior player to do," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "He drove to the basket, and we knew that there would be a likelihood of him getting fouled. I knew that there was about a 95-percent chance that there would be a call that went our way."

Moments later, Robertson -- who didn't score in Thursday's win over Arizona State -- committed the error that rendered his personal-best effort meaningless.

"(If) he makes that play," coach Mike Montgomery said, "it's a tie ballgame and the whole thing changes."

Somewhat remarkably, the Bears were that close despite poor shooting performances from their two leading scorers. Randle and Christopher scored 15 points apiece but combined to shoot just 10-of-33 from the field and 3-of-15 from beyond the arc.

Senior forward Jamal Boykin, who had a career-high 25 points on Thursday against Arizona State, finished with only two against the Wildcats (12-9, 6-3).

Wise, who made five three-pointers and all nine of his free throws, tied his career high with 30 points.

"He killed us," Christopher said.

The late turnover buried them.


Contact Jeff Goodman at [email protected]

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