Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats faced with question: How far can defense, rebounding carry them?


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PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

ASU 69, ARIZONA 66 (2OT)

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ArizonaLogo ASUlogo

At a time when the Arizona Wildcats need Gabe York the most, the reserve sophomore guard who relished the opportunity to finally contribute after hardly playing last year, is struggling mightily.

Nick Johnson’s shooting woes continued at ASU last night with a 5-for-20 performance, including 1-of-6 from three-point range. Since beating Stanford with a go-ahead three-pointer on Jan. 29, Johnson has shot 15-for-60 (25 percent) from the field and 1-for-18 (5.6 percent) from beyond the arc.

York and fellow reserves Elliott Pitts, Jordin Mayes and Matt Korcheck went a combined 0-for-8 against the Sun Devils. Six of those shots were by York, who has failed to make more than one three-pointer in each of his last six games.

York’s productivity rating in that span, since Arizona defeated Colorado Jan. 23 at McKale Center, is .189. His overall productivity rating has dipped from .474 to .406 in the last six games.

Johnson’s productivity rating since the win at Stanford has plummeted from .748 to .666. He has a productivity rating of only .299 in that span.

In a long season, every player goes through a slump and that is happening now for Johnson, who is shooting 28.6 percent (16 of 56) from three-point range in Pac-12 games. York is shooting 36.6 percent from beyond the arc in conference games after shooting 43.8 percent in non-conference games.



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The Wildcats, who are still 23-2 overall and 10-2 in the Pac-12, need more production from their perimeter game to loosen the pressure placed on Kaleb Tarczewski, Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the paint.

Tarczewski and Gordon, who combined for 26 points and 23 rebounds against the Sun Devils, are capable of handling any challenge by an opposing frontcourt. Hollis-Jefferson also had a near double-double with nine points and eight rebounds against ASU. He is producing better than anybody with a .630 productivity rating in the last five games.

Nick Johnson is trying to work his way out of a four-game shooting slump

Nick Johnson is trying to work his way out of a four-game shooting slump

Their production, however, can only go so far, as the Wildcats learned against the Sun Devils.

The perimeter game must provide a boost. It comes down to shooting with confidence. For a team that plays so fierce and focused on the defensive end, the Wildcats are not showing that characteristic with their shooting from the field and especially the free-throw line.

“Our offense is continuing to put more and more pressure on our defense,” Arizona coach Sean Miller told reporters after last night’s loss. “You can only guard so well.”

Arizona’s guards — Johnson and T.J. McConnell — were 3 of 8 from the line against ASU. In last year’s 71-54 win at ASU, Mark Lyons, an 85 percent free-throw shooter, made all six of his free throw attempts as part of his 24 points. The Wildcats were 16 of 19 from the stripe last year. They were 16 of 30 this time around.

“We missed a ton of free throws and, heck, we missed a ton of free throws all year,” Miller said. “Eventually it’s going to run its course and you’re going to lose because we’re leaving too many points on the table. In the first half, we had five or six shots that were the best that we can generate and we missed all of them.

“In the second half we didn’t generate as many good shots but we did generate free throws but we didn’t make them. So that’s on us.”

Six difficult games remain. In the four road games — against Utah, Colorado, Oregon State and Oregon — the teams are a combined 51-7 at home. Arizona also plays at McKale against formidable opponents Stanford and Cal, who are clawing for their NCAA tournament lives.

That’s not a stretch in which a team can work out the kinks. Arizona has the talent to work its way out of its perimeter slump. Until that happens, defense and rebounding will carry the Wildcats. That formula has worked to this point. Arizona is faced with the question: Can defense and rebounding carry the Wildcats all of the way?

MN-Magic number to win regular-season title
z-Eliminated from regular-season title contention

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[table “” not found /] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.


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