In a matchup of schools with the longest combined major-college losing streak in 23 seasons, Cal was unable to become the team that ended its drought on Thursday night.
The Bears now have lost 15 in a row — an ongoing all-time program worst — after a 76-51 loss to an Arizona team that had dropped seven in row.
Cal shot 30 percent, misfired on 20 of its 26 3-point attempts, had more turnovers (12) than assists (7) and allowed the offense-challenged Wildcats to score 46 second-half points.
This was not a step in the right direction for coach Wyking Jones’ program.
Afterward, he blamed the poor shooting and decision making on his players trying to hard to turn things around.
“Our guys want to make plays and they want to get back in the win column so bad that we’re not allowing ourselves to slow down and make the right play,” he said. “We’re so pressed to make a play as opposed to making the right play.”
Cal’s regular-season Pac-12 losing streak is now 21 games, dating back more than a year. With four games left on the schedule before the conference tournament, the Bears are 2-30 in Pac-12 play the past two seasons.
This was the Wildcats’ 100th game at McKale Center since the start of the 2013-14 season, and they have won 93 of them after keeping the Bears (5-21, 0-14) winless in the Pac-12.
Arizona (15-12, 5-8) ended its longest losing skid since 1982-83 — the year before coaching icon Lute Olson arrived in Tucson.
The Bears, who dropped to 0-9 on the road this season and have lost 15 straight Pac-12 road games, couldn't do anything offensively in the first half.
Then, trailing 32-25 less than two minutes into the second half, their defense reverted to its season-long form: Horrendous.
Arizona ran off 11 straight points in a span of exactly 2 minutes, extending its lead to 43-25. Ryan Luther, who led the Wildcats with 19 points, hit two 3-pointers to spark the outburst.
Then, when the Bears crept back within 49-37 with barely 9 minutes left, the Cats hit three more 3-pointers, including another by Luther, and the lead swelled to 58-40, then to 66-40.
“Luther got hot and started making shots,” Jones said. “We allowed him to get too many open looks and I think that changed the game.”
Cal, last nationally in field-goal percentage defense, was victimized for the second straight game by the perimeter shot. The Bears allowed USC to make 19 threes, and Arizona hit 11 from deep, most of them at key moments.
Arizona, which has struggled offensively all season, executed its attack with great ball movement. The Wildcats assisted on 21 of their 27 field goals. They finished at 49 percent from the field after starting 6 for 21.
Justice Sueing led the Bears with 18 points, although he shot just 6 for 15. Paris Austin was the only other Cal player to hit double figures but his 12 points came on 4-for-11 shooting.
Connor Vanover, the Bears’ 7-foot-3 freshman, scored just six points on 2-for-8 shooting before fouling out. He had averaged 12.4 points the previous five coaches.
The Bears made their first shot of the game — a 3-pointer by Darius McNeill — then made just five more baskets the rest of the first half as Arizona carved out a 30-20 lead.
Cal shot 23 percent (6-26) from the field in the half and 15 percent (2-13) on threes, while turning the ball over seven times and dishing just two assists.
All in all, a dreadful offensive half of basketball.
Cal’s last lead was 5-4 after a driving layup by Sueing with 15:38 left in the half.
Arizona used a 9-0 run to extend its lead to 19-9 with 7 minutes left. The Bears got back within 19-14 but a 3-pointer by Luther with 43 seconds left in the half pushed the Cats’ lead to 10 points before the break.