Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: UA in boxer’s stance for Maui showdown with San Diego State

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Rondae Hollis-Jefferson lines up one of his game-saving free throws in Arizona's win over Kansas State in the Maui Invitational semifinals Tuesday (ESPN screen shot)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson lines up one of his game-saving free throws in Arizona’s win over Kansas State in the Maui Invitational semifinals Tuesday (ESPN screen shot)

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WHAT IS PRODUCTIVITY RATING?:
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)

ARIZONA 72, KANSAS STATE 68
PRODUCTIVITY RATING

* — STARTERS
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ARIZONA 72, KANSAS STATE 68

Stanley Johnson is a freshman by college standards but he’s a veteran when it comes to pressure moments.

A four-time state champion at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, Johnson is no stranger to rising to the occasion. Some went so far as to compare his high school exploits to Bill Walton’s as the best in the history of California prep basketball.

After sinking two free throws to put Arizona ahead of Kansas State 68-64 with 22 seconds left Tuesday night, Johnson had a crucial steal on an inbounds play. He kept step with his player from the midcourt stripe, running all of the way to the baseline to pick off the pass.

Johnson said he was in a “boxing stance” against K-State’s Nino Williams on the play as he tracked down the ball.

“You know, with our boxing stance here, just in the lane, once everybody cleared out it was just me and him on the island, I feel like,” Johnson said. “I knew it was coming, and I was right inside of him. The only way he could get it is if he passed to his outside hand.

“So I kind of gambled knowing I could make up for it. And he passed it right to his chest, and I just stepped in front of him and stole it from him.”

Arizona coach Sean Miller interjected: “I think that’s the first time he’s been in a boxer’s stance since he’s been at Arizona. Good. Hopefully that’s more things to come.”

Fitting words inasmuch as Arizona is in a fight for the Maui Invitational title, facing West coast rival San Diego State for that honor Wednesday night.

The Wildcats are also in a struggle for respectability in the realm of being ranked No. 2 nationally. The talk in Tucson and around college basketball circles is about whether Arizona is deserving of such a lofty ranking after sweating it out in their last three games against unranked Cal-Irvine, Missouri and Kansas State.

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San Diego State will give Arizona its best shot after losing to the Wildcats twice last season, including a grueling loss in the Sweet 16. Making the rivalry more intense is Arizona facing former player Angelo Chol, who transferred to San Diego State after the 2012-13 season.

Miller will coach against the Aztecs and Steve Fisher for the sixth time in his six years at Arizona, the most against any non-conference opponent. The Wildcats hold a 3-2 edge against San Diego State under Miller having won the last three games.

ARIZONA DUNK TALLY
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Arizona does not have Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson like it did last year in the two-game sweep of the Aztecs.

The Wildcats have a healthy Brandon Ashley, however, who watched from the bench during the Sweet 16 because of his foot injury. They have a more confident and determined Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the undeniable engine that makes Arizona run.

Arizona also has Stanley Johnson, whose productivity against Kansas State was similar to his namesake last year.

The Wildcats have many important parts that Miller is trying to make interchangeable by the time the Pac-12 season starts.

Two significant pieces to the puzzle came into play against a Kansas State team that is as good as most conference teams Arizona will face this season.

Angelo Chol will play his former team when San Diego State plays Arizona in the Maui Invitational title game (ESPN screen shot)

Angelo Chol will play his former team when San Diego State plays Arizona in the Maui Invitational title game (ESPN screen shot)

Stanley Johnson lived up to his recruiting hype and Gabe York awoke by hitting a couple of threes for Arizona in the second half.

Stanley Johnson can have the same kind of impact that Nick Johnson had on Arizona last year by the end of the season. He can be a lockdown defender (exemplified by his steal against K-State) and he can be difficult for any defender on the offensive end with his strength and athleticism.

York’s perimeter shooting can mean the difference between Arizona operating with efficiency when he’s hot to the Wildcats struggling to get the win when he’s cold.

Kaleb Tarczewski also answered the bell when challenged by K-State’s 6’7″ and 265-pound center Thomas Gipson. Tarczewski scored a career-high 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Tarczewski has made 17 of his first 24 field goal attempts, a team-best 70.8 percent.

The Wildcats showed they have different components other than Hollis-Jefferson to pull out a win. They played against a physical Kansas State team that has advanced to the NCAA tournament the last couple of years.

They got in that boxer stance and remained unbeaten. The fight for respectability continues against the next challenger, San Diego State, and it will be a heavyweight bout.

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SEASON PRODUCTIVITY RATING
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ARIZONA PAC-10/12
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR:
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ARIZONA SCHEDULE/PRODUCTIVITY RESULTS
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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