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.
AROUND THE NATION
NO. 1 HOOSIERS BOUNCE BACK — At Columbus, Ohio, Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 26 points, Cody Zeller had 24, and No. 1 Indiana (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten) came back from a demoralizing loss to gain an 81-68 win over No. 10 Ohio State (17-6, 7-4). On Thursday at Illinois, the Hoosiers allowed a 13-2 closing run and lost 74-72 on an uncontested layup at the buzzer off an inbounds play. DeShaun Thomas scored 26 to lead Ohio State.
RALLIES RESCUE NO. 4 DUKE — At Boston, Mason Plumlee had 19 points and 10 rebounds, hitting the decisive free throw with 26 seconds left, and No. 4 Duke (21-2, 8-2 ACC) rallied from early and late deficits for a 62-61 win over Boston College (10-13, 2-8). Seth Curry added 18 points for the Blue Devils, who watched the three teams above them in the AP Top 25 lose to unranked foes during the week.
NO. 9 SYRACUSE SAFE AT HOME — At Syracuse, N.Y., C.J. Fair had 17 points and nine rebounds to lead No. 9 Syracuse (20-3, 8-2 Big East) to a 77-58 win over St. John’s (15-9, 7-5). It was the 37th straight home win for the Orange, extending the nation’s longest active streak. The win also extended coach Jim Boeheim’s NCAA record for 20-win seasons to 35. St. John’s coach Steve Lavin missed the game due to the overnight death of his 82-year-old father, Cap. The team was coached by assistant Rico Hines.
ILLINI TOP NO. 18 GOPHERS — At Minneapolis, Tyler Griffey scored 16 points, and Illinois (17-8, 4-7 Big Ten) hit 11 of 23 3-pointers in a 57-53 win over No. 18 Minnesota (17-7, 5-6).