Cal’s zone leaves bad taste for Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. — Cal coach Mike Montgomery has been reluctant to use a zone defense this season, largely because his team hasn’t been very good at it.

After the Bears had some success with the zone late against Arizona State, he decided to give it a go to open the second half against No. 7 Arizona on Sunday.

It couldn’t have worked out any better, sending another top-10 team to a loss.

Sparked by its zone, Cal went on a big run to open the second half and held on behind the shooting of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs for a 77-69 victory over the Wildcats, the sixth top-10 team to lose last week.

“We had a rhythm and communication,” Montgomery said. “They had some penetration, but it took them out of their norm. We haven’t been very good at it this season, and it was a matter of game and circumstance.”

Cal (14-9, 6-5 Pac-12) rallied from a 15-point deficit behind its defense against Arizona State on Thursday before coming up just short in a 66-62 loss.

The Bears went to their zone earlier against Arizona, keying a 17-2 run that put them up 10 early in the second half.

Even as the Wildcats started to figure out the zone, Cal didn’t flinch, making some big shots down the stretch to beat Arizona at the McKale Center for the third straight season.

Crabbe scored on a tough shot along the baseline with just over two minutes left and had 19 of his 31 points in the second half. Cobbs hit a 3-pointer just before that and scored on a layup with 39 seconds left, finishing with 21 points.

Cobbs also hit two free throws to build Cal’s cushion in the closing seconds, allowing Crabbe to walk to the free-throw line with a huge smile on his face for a shot that he missed but didn’t matter.

“I really can’t think of any other moment in college where I felt this great,” Crabbe said.

Arizona (20-3, 8-3), which had won five straight, was led by Mark Lyons with 16 points. Solomon Hill added 13 and Brandon Ashley 12.

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