BERKELEY, Calif. - Mired in the middle of the Pac-12 race, the Arizona Wildcats rose up in the most unlikely of places Thursday.
The Wildcats handed first-place Cal its first home loss of the season, 78-74, though the win might have been a costly one: Backup point guard Jordin Mayes might have been lost for the season with an injury to his left foot, according to UA coach Sean Miller. Mayes broke the left foot last spring and had surgery on it in June, and he will be X-rayed today to determine the extent of the injury.
But other than Mayes' injury, and a few missed opportunities that again bothered Miller, the Wildcats healed while winning for the first time in six games decided by six points or less.
They did so with two key blocks in the final minute: one by Kyle Fogg on Cal's Allen Crabbe, and another by Nick Johnson on Justin Cobbs.
Fogg also tied his season-high in scoring with 23 after scoring just seven in UA's loss to Washington on Saturday at McKale Center.
"I feel like I let my teammates down against Washington," Fogg said.
The win moved Arizona to 15-8 overall and 6-4 in Pac-12 play. Cal dropped to 17-6 and 7-3.
The Wildcats had entered the game stuck in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Pac-12, on the verge of drowning in the still wide-open league race. They had lost three of their previous five games, two of which were played at home.
But still, they kept going. In fact, Fogg said they had a great week of practice before Thursday's game.
"Coach (Miller) really stuck with us," Fogg said. "He had faith in us. He let us know we can beat these guys."
While Solomon Hill was mired in foul trouble, the Wildcats also had surprising help from Johnson, who shook off a slump to score 11 points and block Cobbs at the end, while Angelo Chol broke out with eight points, four rebounds and two blocks in just 16 minutes.
"He was a big reason we won," Miller said of Chol. "It was inspiring to watch."
Johnson, meanwhile, displayed some of the old confidence not seen during his recent slump.
Ironically, playing at Cal, where the Wildcats won last season in triple overtime, may have been an inspiration for him .
"I like big atmospheres," Johnson said. "I saw the game last year (on TV) and I knew it was going to be crazy."
Johnson had three rebounds, five assists, one steal and the block on Cobbs, which helped save the game for the Wildcats in a crazy final minute.
Arizona led 75-72 entering the final minute but Jorge Gutierrez hit two free throws with 59 seconds left to cut it to one point.
After forward Jesse Perry scored inside to put the Wildcats ahead 77-74, Fogg blocked a three-pointer by Crabbe with 27 seconds to go. Josiah Turner then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 22 seconds left, giving Cal the ball.
But when Cobbs drove inside, Johnson blocked it and Brendon Lavender recovered the ball with 11 seconds left.
Perry was then fouled and hit one of two free throws to make it 78-74. Cal failed to score on its final play.
Cobbs had tied the game at 72 with 3:40 left. Fogg made a three-pointer with 1:23 remaining to give the Wildcats a three-point lead entering the final minute.
The win left Miller relieved and saying he was proud of his team's resiliency but also a big concerned it wasn't a bit easier.
"We had some things that we missed on" toward the end, Miller said. "But if you get in a number of close games, the math will work (in your favor)."
Cal went on a 9-0 run late in the game to cut the UA lead to two points, after the Wildcats took leads as big as 14 points earlier in the second half.
Hill sat out several minutes in the second half with four fouls but returned with 7:08 left when Cal began closing in.
Hill picked up his fourth foul with 14:45 to go and fouled out with 59 seconds left.
After digging themselves another early hole, Arizona went on a 30-8 run in the first half to take a 45-34 halftime lead.
Arizona forced eight Cal turnovers and kept the Bears without a three-pointer in three attempts. Offensively, the Wildcats were led by Fogg, who had 13 points.
The Wildcats trailed by up to 13 points midway through the first half but used their defense to help trigger a comeback that put them ahead by five points with three minutes to go.
"They were hitting some tough shots" early in the game, Johnson said. "But they finally started getting tired and that's when we went on a run."
• Who: Arizona at Stanford
• When: 1 p.m. Saturday
• TV; radio: FSAZ; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM