Jordan Mathews explodes for 28 points to lead Cal over No. 12 Arizona

Cal remains unbeaten at home after completing a sweep of the Arizona programs. (USATSI)
Cal remains unbeaten at home after completing a sweep of the Arizona programs. (USATSI)

A fun Saturday in college hoops was capped with a 74-73 home-court Cal victory against No. 12 Arizona .

The outcome means the Golden Bears achieve their second noteworthy victory of the season. It’s concerning that a preseason top-20 team can get to Jan. 23 and really only have two legitimate wins, and not only that, but also consider the other credible victory is against St. Mary’s. The Gaels are good again this season, but far from a lock to reach the NCAA Tournament.

And that win, like Saturday’s, came at home. Cal has yet to prove itself outside of Haas Pavilion, but nonetheless getting a victory against Arizona was vital. In doing so, Cal got a surprise performance off the bench from Jordan Mathews, a one-time go-to guy for the Bears who has become the most important of role players.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Mathews said afterward on ESPN.

He was 10 for 17 from the field 6 for 12 from 3-point range. Cal also got 15 points and seven assists from freshman Jaylen Brown. Cuonzo Martin’s team is without Ty Wallace, perhaps the most important player in the lineup, so to win against the Pac-12’s best program over the past half-decade is a big step forward for this team.

Arizona was missing a piece too, though. Lead guard Allonzo Trier was out, and will still be out a few more weeks, due to a broken right hand. Zona had a few chances late to steal the game, but perhaps this team’s thin lineup led to some weak legs late. Arizona just played at Stanford on Thursday night and didn’t even have a 48-hour turnaround for this game. Tough to win consecutive league games on the road under those conditions.

Sean Miller’s team has lost its four games this season by a total of just 10 points. The Wildcats are probably going to be in good position come March, so long as they can avoid any more injuries and protect their home court. This program has been about as good as any other in that regard since Miller took over in 2009.

Cal now faces a road game against Utah on Wednesday and then at Colorado next Sunday. Its record away from home this season is a paltry 1-6. That win percentage has to creep up soon if Cal’s to be a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender. But, for a night, the team and its fans have every right to celebrate a big win against league royalty.

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