Arizona Basketball

No. 3 Wildcats get the win in up-and-down then up game with Michigan State; move to 6-0

Survive and advance?

Heck, it sure felt that way – and appeared that way – on Thanksgiving day in Palm Desert, California, even though it felt like March.

Arizona took a big lead. Then lost it. Then regained it. … And eventually won, 74-68, beating tough Michigan State in the biggest college basketball game of the day.

Arizona is now 6-0 with no game slated until Dec. 2.

“For us to get up in this environment and get up and then be down with a couple of minutes to go and come out with the win is similar to the Duke game, and shows a lot about our guys,” said UA associate head coach Jack Murphy said on the KCUB 1290 postgame show. “The resolve that they have. The togetherness they have …”

Murphy mentioned KJ Lewis coming up big. Jaden Bradley doing the same. Keshad Johnson being huge with his double double (13 points, 10 rebounds), giving him the game’s most valuable player.

Bradley was just as good on the defensive end, as he defended MSU’s Tyson Walker, and limited him to 18 tough points.

Once again, five Arizona players scored in double figures.

And Arizona went small … choosing to go without Oumar Ballo (who was actually a liability from the free throw line) and Krivas, who struggled. Pelle Larsson had already fouled out.

“O (Oumar) didn’t do horrible. He was 2 for 5 from the line but it kinda like stunted our offense and our flow and got them back in the game,” Murphy said.

They moved Johnson to the big-man spot “and that gave us that physicality across the board. They had gone small, and we match up well there.”

Michigan State didn’t hit a field goal in the final four minutes, and UA outscored it 11-2 in that span.

While Johnson may have been the player of the game – yes, he was that valuable – it was Love who stole the show again. He finished with 17 points, had that long 3-pointer to end the half and then came up big with that game-sealing steal to help UA get a six-point win.

“Caleb’s been in a lot of these games,” Murphy said of big, close games. “Caleb has been in just as many big games over the course of his career, high-level games and he made winning plays at the end. If there’s a guy that we want at the free throw line late in the game like that is Caleb. He missed the first one and we knew everyone on that bench. If you went down the line, person for person, we would say he’s making this next one.”

He did, to put Arizona up 72-68 with 11 seconds left.

Then came the steal and assist to KJ Lewis, who scored UA’s final points.

“That’s the freedom coach gives these guys,” Murphy said. “We want to be an aggressive team. We want to be in attacking-style defense. There’s not many teams in the country that are up four in that position where they’re running a base (defense) out of balance, where we’re really making it difficult for them to get the ball in. But, it’s something that we work on. It’s something that we practice, and we pride ourselves on.”

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