GOAZCATS - Dylan Smith's big second-half performance helps Arizona beat Cal
basketball Edit

Dylan Smith's big second-half performance helps Arizona beat Cal

For a team that took until late January to win its first road game, Arizona has turned its struggles into a winning streak. Thursday night the Wildcats used a big second-half performance from senior guard Dylan Smith to seal their third straight victory away from McKale Center.

Smith scored all 14 of his points in the second half with 12 of his points coming on 3-pointers including one shot from deep during a 12-0 run that helped Arizona (17-7, 7-4 Pac-12) pull away from the Golden Bears.

Cal (10-14, 4-7) had cut the UA lead to just one point before the run, but the Wildcats leaned on Smith as well as freshman big man Zeke Nnaji to help the team create some separation. Arizona pushed its lead to as many as 19 points in the second half en route to the 68-52 victory.

"We got good stops on defense, we were able to get out in transition, took good shots during that time," UA associate head coach Jack Murphy said on the team's postgame radio show. "I think Zeke Nnaji during that time down low was a load, and we went to him a couple times in a row and he finished.

"... Not only was it Dylan's perimeter shooting, but it was Zeke down low really producing and taking advantage when he had opportunities."

Smith had struggled the last couple weeks as he went cold from the field entering Thursday night's game. It prompted a conversation about his starting role with head coach Sean Miller leaving the door open on a potential switch among his starting five that would have brought the senior off the bench.

Instead, Smith responded with one of his most efficient games of the season and his key jump shots helped give Arizona the edge it needed at Haas Pavilion.

"Coach [Sean Miller] put in a couple shooting-group workouts this week," Murphy said. "A little extra stuff for the perimeter guys including Stone Gettings and Dylan, and Dylan won both days – Monday and Tuesday. Obviously it paid off dividends.

"I'm so happy to see the guys put in the hard work and then see it pay off in games. Dylan, by his own admission, has struggled lately coming into the game and after he missed his first one he was 0 for his last 20. So he was definitely due and did a great job. We're really proud of him and glad he was able to deliver when we needed it most."

The win over Cal helped move Arizona within a half game of first place in the Pac-12 Conference race after Oregon knocked off Colorado earlier in the night. UA will look for its second straight road sweep when it faces Stanford on Saturday with the Cardinal coming off a loss to Arizona State on Thursday.

The Wildcats finished with three players in double figures with Nnaji scoring 21 points to lead all scorers to go along with five rebounds and two assists. Smith also had five rebounds and two assists to cap an overall impressive performance from the senior.

UA freshman point guard Nico Mannion had 10 points to go with five assists and a rebound in the win.

Arizona leaders vs Cal
Player Points Rebounds Assists

Zeke Nnaji

21 (8-13 FGs)



Dylan Smith

14 (5-7 FGs)



Nico Mannion

10 (3-9 FGs)