TUCSON, Ariz. - In perhaps its biggest Pac-10 basketball game ever, California came away with the second-worst loss in the school’s history.
Rick Anderson had 17 points to lead six Arizona scorers in double figures as the 14th-ranked Wildcats routed No. 21 California 99-53 on Saturday.
The loss guaranteed Oregon the Pac-10 title, the Ducks’ first outright conference championship since they won the inaugural NCAA tournament in 1939. Later Saturday, Oregon beat UCLA 65-62 to finish two games ahead of its nearest rival.
It was California’s worst loss since a 101-50 rout at Stanford two years ago. The Bears could have earned a share of the Pac-10 title with a victory and an Oregon loss to UCLA. Cal hasn’t won a conference championship in 42 years.
Cal head coach Ben Braun and his players seemed as perplexed as anyone by the team’s uninspired effort.
“I just don’t remember many times our team didn’t step up and meet the challenge,” Braun said. “It’s hard to explain.”
Arizona (19-9, 12-6) finished tied for second and will get the No. 2 seed in next week’s Pac-10 tournament because the Wildcats won all possible tiebreakers.
The Wildcats held a players-only meeting before the game.
“We talked about either being the second seed or the sixth seed. That was a lot of motivation,” playmaker Jason Gardner said. “There were a lot of people saying we were going to finish fourth or fifth in the Pac-10. We wanted to prove everything wrong.”
The Bears (21-7, 12-6), swept by Arizona this season, fell behind 14-3, trailed by 19 points at halftime, then were buried by Wildcats with a 30-4 burst to start the second half.
“That’s what we don’t understand at this point,” Cal’s Brian Wethers aid. “We knew how important of a game this was, and to come out and give this effort is real frustrating.”
Anderson, who missed Arizona’s practice Friday because of a virus, played just 20 minutes and had nine rebounds. He was 3-for-5 from 3-point range as the Wildcats made 14 of 32 from beyond the arc and outrebounded the Bears 48-27. After the game, Anderson begged off interviews because he needed to go receive antibiotics.
“Ricky was still really under the weather and had been since early in the week,” coach Lute Olson said. “I think you saw against Stanford that he just ran out of gas in the second half. We didn’t have him work out at all yesterday. He just watched practice. He needs to get well for us.”
Luke Walton had 10 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Wildcats, while Salim Stoudamire had 15 points, Jason Gardner and Will Bynum each added 14 and freshman Dennis Latimore a career-best 12.
Bynum, who sat out Thursday’s loss to Stanford for missing a workout on Sunday, was 4-for-9 from 3-point range.
Wethers scored 18 points for the Bears and Joe Shipp had 13.
The Wildcats outscored California 43-7 in a stretch of just over 13 minutes - 13-3 over the last three minutes of the first half and the run over the first 10:04 of the second.
Arizona scored 21 consecutive points to go up 79-34 on Latimore’s over-his-head layup with 9:56 to play.
The Wildcats, who led 49-30 at halftime, were 8-of-13 on 3-pointers in the first half. They shot 49 percent against a California team that leads the Pac-10 in defense and 3-point defense. In its 68-58 victory at Cal on Jan. 31, Arizona shot 55 percent - 65 percent in the second half.
California, which beat Arizona State on Thursday night, has not swept the Arizona schools on the road since they joined the Pac-10 in 1978-79.