Arizona Basketball

Top 5 observations Arizona Wildcats vs. Cal-Irvine


Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's energy was indicative of him going to the line 13 times, making 11 (Pac-12 Networks video screen shot)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s energy was indicative of him going to the line 13 times, making 11 (Pac-12 Networks video screen shot)


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Top 5 observations of Arizona’s 71-54 victory over Cal-Irvine while wondering what the Anteaters’ record would be in the Pac-12. …

5. The score does reflect how Arizona dominated when it mattered most.

Midway through the second half, the game had the same feel when Arizona lost at home a couple of years ago to Cal and UCLA. Arizona could not take control. The Wildcats trailed 46-41 with 10:30 left on a layup by Cal-Irvine’s Mike Souza. The No. 2-ranked team was on the ropes against an Anteater team that Sean Miller warned us as being dangerous.

What happened next is what Arizona fans have come to expect from the Wildcats: Athleticism, aggressive play and an opportunistic defense taking over. It was a retaliation against a worthy challenger with a knockout punch of a run this team is capable of achieving because of its personnel.

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Arizona’s first seven points of its 15-0 run over the next six minutes came at the free throw line, indicative how the Wildcats forced the issue by taking the ball to the basket stronger.

The Anteaters missed five field goal attempts and committed five turnovers and Arizona made them pay. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored six of his career-high 19 points in that stretch. Kaleb Tarczweski’s lone two field goals in the game occurred during that run on tip-ins over Irvine’s tiring frontline, including foul-plagued 7’6″ center Mamadou Ndiaye.

Although Cal-Irvine has an imposing frontline with four players 6’10” and taller, Arizona outscored the Anteaters 18-5 in second-chance points. Cal-Irvine did not score any fast break points.


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The final score may not reflect how the game was overall, but it shows how dominant Arizona can be against good competition, especially when it mattered most.

4. Surprise double-double.

Hollis-Jefferson, Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley are double-double threats every game. Tarczewski achieved one in the opener against Mount St. Mary’s with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Stanley Johnson? After he had only one rebound against Cal State-Northridge on Sunday? Johnson also produced 10 points and 10 rebounds against Cal-Irvine to achieve another double-double for Arizona.

“We were on him hard to be an offensive rebounder,” Miller told Brian Jeffries on the KCUB 1290-AM postgame show. “He has a lot of talent in that area.”


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Johnson had three offensive boards. Arizona had an impressive 13 as a team. Arizona outrebounded Cal-Irvine 40-30.

3. Remember when Gabe York was all offense?

The junior guard struggled again from the field making only 1 of 6 field-goal attempts, including 1 of 4 from three-point range. He was impressive on the defensive end, however, with a career-high three blocked shots and two steals.

In three years in the program, he has evolved from an offense-only player to one who prides himself more on his defense.

Who would have guessed through the first three games that York has as many blocked shots (four) and steals (four) as he does with three-pointers (4 of 13)?

“Having the coach call me off the bench for defense was really big for me,” York told Ryan Hansen of 1290-AM. “All week, Coach (Miller) has been telling me that, ‘I need you to become the Nick Johnson of last year. I need you to play defense.’

“Tonight, I answered the bell.”

2. T.J. McConnell four steals, one rebound from a triple-double.

T.J. McConnell’s uncommon line in the game for a point guard: 12 points, nine rebounds, six steals, four assists and no turnovers. He led all Arizona players with a season-high 36 minutes.

If McConnell has that kind of production in every game Arizona will never lose.

1290-AM post-game analyst Kelvin Eafon, a former Arizona football and basketball player, offered an interesting perspective as to why McConnell grabbed that many rebounds. Eafon said it was because Arizona’s inside players were so focused on defending their man that a guard like McConnell should move in quick for the loose ball.

That requires McConnell to be on the spot, alert at all times. He played that way with the stat of having no turnovers in 36 minutes the most impressive of all.

1. That’s right — Free throw shooting was the difference.

Arizona outscored Cal-Irvine by 18 points at the free-throw line in the second half, making 22 of 26 free throws compared to 4 of 7 by the Anteaters. The disparity in the free throws is not indicative of suspect calls by the refs. It was all about Arizona making the plays and Cal-Irvine being a step slow, tiring as the game progressed.

The Wildcats made 29 of 34 free throw attempts in the game, a far cry from making only 34 of 60 against Mount St. Mary’s and Cal State-Northridge in the first two games.

Arizona’s 94 free-throw attempts in the first three games show that Wednesday night’s game was not called out of the ordinary.

The Wildcats are on a record pace, albeit only three games into the season, by averaging 31.3 free throw attempts a game. The 1990-91 team of Sean Rooks, Brian Williams and Chris Mills attempted the most free throws in Arizona history with 967 in 35 games, an average of 27.6 a game.

Miller offered an I-told-you-so after Arizona knocked down its free throws against Cal-Irvine. He also knows the Wildcats will have plenty of opportunities to prove him right with the offensive execution concentrated in the paint and Hollis-Jefferson difficult for opponents to handle attacking the basket. 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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