Las Vegas, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - The fifth-ranked and top-seeded Arizona Wildcats will kick off Pac-12 Conference Tournament action on Thursday, as the Wildcats take on the eighth-seeded California Golden Bears in the first quarterfinal matchup at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The winner advances to Friday's semifinal round, with a trip to the conference title game on the line for the victor.
California cruised past Washington State in the first round of the tournament on Wednesday, handing the Cougars an 84-59 loss to advance on to the quarterfinal round. The win was huge for the Golden Bears, who entered the postseason with losses in five of their last six games.
Arizona heads into its first conference tournament matchup of the 2014-15 season on an eight-game win streak that picked the Wildcats up to 16-2 against Pac-12 competition. The fifth-ranked Wildcats manhandled Stanford in the regular-season finale on Saturday, 91-69.
The Golden Bears will have to look past their two regular-season meetings against Arizona if they want to have success in this matchup. The Wildcats took both decisions, winning by at least 23 points in both games.
California gained an early lead against Washington State, and went into halftime owning a 36-27 advantage. From there, the Golden Bears ballooned their lead to as many as 25 points, which was the final margin in the end. David Kravish netted 25 points with eight rebounds to lead the way, while Jordan Mathews added 19 points. Tyrone Wallace chipped in with 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Cal, which shot 58.5 percent from the field in the win.
Wallace entered the postseason as one of the league's best players and best scorers. The guard averaged 17.2 ppg to end the regular season, which tied for third in the league rankings. He also led the squad in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and in assists (119 total). Mathews chipped in with 13.7 ppg, and Kravish added 11.0 ppg. Jabari Bird rounded out the group of double-digit scorers with 10.6 ppg for the Golden Bears, who are still in search of their first Pac-12 title. In the 99-60 loss to Arizona in the last head-to-head meeting, Wallace scored 16 points as the Bears allowed the Wildcats to hit 56.7 percent of their field goal attempts.
It was an all-around strong game for Arizona both offensively and defensively against Stanford on Saturday. The Wildcats shot an impressive 53.7 percent from the floor, and also limited the Cardinal to 37.3 percent shooting in the contest. Five Arizona players recorded a scoring figure in double digits in the win, led by Brandon Ashley's 15-point, nine-rebound effort. Rondae Hollis- Jefferson chipped in with 14 points and seven boards, both Gabe York and Kaleb Tarczewski added 13 points and T.J. McConnell tallied a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists to hand the Wildcats their eighth win in a row.
Stud freshman Stanley Johnson netted nine points in the win over Stanford, and kept his team-leading scoring average up at 13.9 ppg. Ashley (11.6 ppg) and Hollis-Jefferson (11.2 ppg) round out a trio of double-digit scorers this season for the Wildcats. Arizona, which led the league in scoring and scoring margin, is tied for the most conference titles in the Pac-12, owning four championships all-time. But the Wildcats haven't won since the 2002 season, and were upset last year in the title match by UCLA. In two wins over California during the regular season, Arizona beat the Golden Bears by a combined 62 points.