Arizona Basketball

Top three observations of Arizona Wildcats’ win over Cal



Former Arizona players who had air time tonight on the Pac-12 Networks including Tom Tolbert, Steve Kerr, Luke Walton, Bruce Fraser, Joseph Blair, Matt Muehlebach, Corey Williams, Damon Stoudamire and Andre Iguodala. Lute Olson was also at Haas Pavilion.

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1. Stanley Johnson’s last four games reminiscent of Sean Elliott dominance.

The biggest game-changer in the history of Arizona hoops is Elliott, bar none, with his ability to make plays and will Arizona to victory with his skill, effort and positive influence on teammates.

Johnson, only a freshman, is showing that same kind of characteristic in the last four games after suffering his worst performance against Oregon State two weeks ago.

That last sequence with the Beavers’ Langston Morris-Walker driving past Johnson to the basket for the winning shot is a lasting image. Another tough one to swallow was Johnson’s seventh turnover at UNLV in the waning seconds, thwarting a chance for Arizona to either tie or go ahead of the Rebels.

Look how far he’s come, a poster boy for Arizona coach Sean Miller in terms of accepting the team process rather than play for all those points and press clippings.

“I tell you what, for an 18-year-old young man to come into college basketball and carry over what he did in high school can be extremely difficult,” Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson told KCUB (1290-AM) announcer Brian Jeffries after the game.


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“Watching Stanley’s progression has made all of us proud. He’s becoming more of a complete basketball player. We are showing (as coaches) that we can fulfill the promise that you’ll get better when you are here.”

Johnson’s 18 points and nine rebounds against Cal falls in line with his previous three dominant games against Colorado, Utah and Stanford. In the last four games, he has averaged 19.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game. That’s of the ilk of Elliott, Chris Mills and Derrick Williams taking control of the game.

2. Arizona’s bench takes over again.

The reserves, coming off the dominance at Stanford on Thursday, outscored Cal’s bench 24-0 tonight. In the sweep over the Cardinal and Golden Bears, the bench outscored its opponents 49-16.

The story of the win over Stanford was the inspiring play of little-used reserve Matt Korcheck. Tonight’s headliner was backup center Dusan Ristic, who spelled foul-plagued Kaleb Tarczewski for a career-high 19 minutes. Ristic had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including his second three-pointer of the season.

Miller exemplified the depth of his team by using nine players with at least 12 minutes each. Korcheck, who would be part of Cal’s eight-man rotation, was limited to only two minutes as Arizona’s 10th option.

Ristic’s footwork and shooting ability is impressive for a 7-footer. Cal did not have a player who could guard him on the block, including senior David Kravish. Former Arizona post man Joseph Blair, a graduate assistant, is making an obvious impact with the Wildcats’ fundamental post-up moves inside.

Arizona’s bread-and-butter is its inside game and Ristic stood tall. The Wildcats attempted a season-low five three-pointers, making two (one by the 7-footer).


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3. What free-throw shooting woes? What home cooking?

The Wildcats made 23 of 26 of their free-throw attempts against Cal. Almost as impressive is the fact Arizona went to the free-throw line 62 times in the Bay area trip. The Wildcats made 47 of those attempts for an unbelievable percentage of 75.8.

Last weekend at McKale Center against Colorado and Utah, the Wildcats attempted only 43 free throws.

In seven Pac-12 games, Arizona is shooting 75.1 percent from the line (136 of 181). Entering Pac-12 play, the Wildcats made only 63.1 percent of their free-throw attempts.

Arizona’s starters tonight — Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Tarczewski and Hollis-Jefferson — combined to make 21 of their 22 free-throw attempts. T.J. McConnell did not have an attempt. 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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