Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson answer challenge



Stanley Johnson was in the middle of Arizona's ability to win the Maui Invitational title (ESPN screen shot)

Stanley Johnson was in the middle of Arizona’s ability to win the Maui Invitational title (ESPN screen shot)

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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)


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Before Arizona played San Diego State last night the question was posed: Which set of wing forwards is better, the Wildcats’ Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson or the Aztecs’ Winston Shepard and Dwayne Polee?

Just as the game went, after it appeared from the start that San Diego State could take control, Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson proved to be too much for Shepard and Polee and the Aztecs.

Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson had 17 of Arizona’s 29 second-half points, including eight of the last 10 (six on consecutive free throws by Johnson) to enable the Wildcats to beat the Aztecs for the Maui Invitational title.

“Stanley Johnson grew up today,” Arizona coach Sean Miller told ESPN of the freshman sensation, who was named the most valuable player of the tournament. “Where he was a month ago and where he is today is two different places.”

Miller hopes to be saying the same thing about his team from now, although it is 6-0 with a quality win over the Aztecs, to when the Wildcats are playing in the Pac-12 tournament in March.


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Every game in Maui was a struggle for the Wildcats, who entered the tournament following a hard-fought win over Cal-Irvine at McKale Center last week. The bottom line is Arizona has achieved its overall goal of being 6-0 heading into Thanksgiving with RPI-boosting wins over Irvine, Kansas State and San Diego State.

With a showdown against Gonzaga upcoming at McKale Center next Saturday, Miller will have the Wildcats’ ear when it comes to what must be done to face that challenge. A recent meeting between Miller and Johnson set the freshman straight on his objectives and Johnson has delivered.

He led the Wildcats in this site’s productivity rating in the last two down-to-the-final-minute games against K-State and San Diego State. In those games, Johnson had a combined 32 points and 16 rebounds. He made 16 of 18 free throws, including the six consecutive in clutch time against the Aztecs.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot better since I got here, and I know me and Coach Miller in the meeting, he’s just telling me to get better every day, even if it’s a little bit,” Johnson said. “I’ve been feeling that part of it ever since that meeting. So I still have a long way to go as a player on the team. But little stuff our team knows about, I’ve definitely gotten better.”

San Diego State coach Steve Fisher went so far as to say about Johnson: “He’ll make a pretty good NBA player in about six months.”

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The same can be said of Hollis-Jefferson because of his motor and athleticism. He had 20 points and 14 rebounds against Kansas State and San Diego State. He was 6 of 7 from the free-throw line both games.

Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson have the flair for the spectacular with their playing style and both are known to be not bashful on the court. Johnson jawed with Shepard in the first half. He was told by senior captain T.J. McConnell to “shut up” after getting into verbal warfare with Kevin Zabo in the second half.

McConnell himself got involved in the heat of the moment with guards from Missouri and K-State in the previous games.

Shepard continued the trash talking to a degree after the game, noting that the Aztecs should not have lost the last four meetings against the Wildcats.

“I feel like we should at least have won three out of the last four, in my opinion,” Shepard said.

Shepard and Polee started hot last night making their first five field goal attempts and scoring 15 of San Diego State’s first 19 points. They made only four of 13 field goals afterward as Arizona’s defense from Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson put the clamps on them.

Arizona overcame foul trouble with Kaleb Tarczewski (who fouled out for the second time this season), Brandon Ashley, Gabe York and McConnell. Thankfully for Miller, Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson remained out of foul trouble despite their aggressive style.

Holis-Jefferson and Johnson combined for 15 rebounds as Arizona won a point of emphasis from the coaches: The battle on the boards. Arizona outrebounded San Diego State 34-32 and limited the Aztecs to 11 offensive rebounds, which is their bread and butter.

“They live off the offensive rebounds,” Arizona assistant Joe Pasternack told 1290-AM in the postgame radio interview. “In the NCAA tournament last year, they had 18 offensive rebounds against us. We drove that home.

“Stanley Johnson (team-high nine rebounds) was a man tonight. Big-time players step up in big games and he did that tonight.”


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[table “” not found /] 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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