Bears Set For Battle With No. 8 Arizona

March 9, 2001

Still with a chance to claim a share of the Pac-10 championship,eighth-ranked Arizona closes out the regular season at California on Saturday.

The Wildcats (22-7, 14-3) moved within a game of conference-leading Stanfordby beating the top-ranked Cardinal 76-75 on Thursday night.

Arizona will know going into Saturday's game if it still has a shot atgetting a piece of the Pac-10 crown. Earlier in the day, Stanford must lose athome to Arizona State to keep the Wildcats in contention.

UCLA is also a game behind Stanford, but if Arizona finishes the season tiedwith one or both of those teams, the Wildcats would be awarded the conference'sautomatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

A win Saturday should all but assure the Wildcats of at least a No. 2 seedin the NCAA tournament. Arizona surely helped its cause Thursday, avenging anearlier loss to Stanford thanks to Michael Wright's layup with three secondsleft.

'It hurt us a lot to lose to them at home,' said Richard Jefferson, whohad 14 points. 'We just told ourselves before the game that we can't let theseguys sweep us this year, because then we'd have to hang out for the next coupleof months and think about it.'

The win was Arizona's fifth straight, and not surprisingly, Wright has keyedthe current run. The 6-foot-7 junior is averaging 16.6 points and 7.6 reboundsduring the streak.

Sophomore Gilbert Arenas has bolstered his case for Pac-10 player of theyear honors, averaging 20.8 points over his last six games and scoring agame-high 22 points in the win over Stanford.

California (20-9, 11-6) is enjoying one of its best seasons in recentmemory, winning at least 10 conference games for the first time since 1997. TheBears ended a two-game losing streak Thursday by beating Arizona State 86-67.

Cal already has a very good chance of earning an invitation to the NCAAtournament for the first time since 1996-97, but a win over Arizona would makethe Bears hard to ignore. However, coach Ben Braun doesn't want his teamlooking too far ahead.

'We're a step closer now. We need to come out and play Saturday to be asgood a team as we can be and maybe get a higher seed in the process,' Braunsaid. 'We need to put the tournament in the back of our minds and play forpride.'

Arizona slipped past Cal 78-75 in Tucson on Jan. 4. Wright dominated thegame with 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting while adding eight rebounds. SeanLampley led the Bears with 21 points.

Arizona leads the all-time series 35-23.

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