You had to see this one coming. For the last month or so, the Arizona Wildcats have been living on borrowed time as they tried to keep alive a record-setting win streak.
They’ve blown large leads, have had to rally to come from behind, overcome cold shooting spells, and generally just found ways to win. Their game against Stanford last week required a three-point shot and a couple of crunch-time free throws by Nick Johnson in the last 51 seconds to squeeze past the Cardinal for a three-point victory and a school-record 21 straight wins.
But last night, time finally ran out for the No. 1 team in the country.
With just 0.9 seconds left on the game clock, a redshirt senior guard named Justin Cobbs drained a game-winning jump shot that capped off a team-high 19 points to give California a 60-58 win.
The un-ranked Golden Bears rose up and bit the Wildcats in the butt before Arizona could escape their two-day tour through the state and return to the comfy confines of McKale Center. And the Bears made their own history by knocking off Arizona on their home court in Haas Pavilion, since no California team has ever beaten a No. 1 in Berkeley. The last time the Bears beat a top team was a couple of decades ago when they shocked UCLA with a 15-point victory at the Oakland Coliseum in 1994.
Arizona’s 37 weeks as the AP No. 1 will come to an end today when No. 2 Syracuse, also unbeaten coming into the weekend, will ascend to the throne after beating Duke yesterday in an overtime thriller in the Carrier Dome.
Arizona’s fifth-year head coach, Sean Miller, accepted that time had finally run out on the Cats and took a philosophical approach to the inevitable. “We’d always found a way to be on the positive end of it,” he said after the game. “Tonight, in that same moment, we did’t make the shots and we didn’t get the big stop.”
Where the Cats’ defense usually rose up late in the game to protect a lead or stop a run, they had no answer last night for Cobbs, a 6’3″ guard who was recruited right out of California. He scored the Bears’ final 12 points and was a play-maker throughout the game, posting seven assists. Each time that Arizona took a slight lead in the game’s final minutes, Cobbs would find a way to tie it back up again.
Once again, Arizona was forced to play catch-up. The Cats rallied from a nine-point deficit in the first half and had to come back from eight points down in the second half. But this time, it just wasn’t enough.
Johnson, the junior guard from Gilbert, played 35 minutes but was held to just four points. He picked a bad time to go dry, as there were 21 scouts from 14 different NBA teams reportedly in the stands.
But Kaleb Tarzcewski‘s stock may have risen somewhat. The 7-foot sophomore led the team with 18 points, although Aaron Gordon did the heavy work on the boards, collecting a team-high 13 rebounds. Junior point guard T.J. McConnell finished with 13 points as just six players put up points.
With the Arizona loss, just Syracuse and No. 4 Wichita State remain unbeaten in Division I.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)