Arizona Co-Players of the Game:
Nick Johnson – The junior guard stepped up big time for the Wildcats in the first half of the game. He wasn't the point guard that Arizona could have used at times, but he took over the game late in the first half and was a key in getting his team back in the game.
Johnson finished the game with 20 points and 5 rebounds. He also finished the night with 4 assists and was a major contributor down the stretch, including driving and dishing to T.J. McConnell for a three-pointer that may have been the deciding play of the game.
Kaleb Tarczewski – Although he got off to bad start, traveling multiple times in the first half, Tarczewski turned it around in the second half. The seven-footer was a dominant force, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the latter half and propelling his team back into the driver's seat of the game.
During the second half, it seemed as if he could not be stopped. The sophomore beat defenders down the floor, blocked shots at will, and most of all, didn't foul anyone. He finished with just two fouls, though one was a technical that was quite questionable. It was a breakout game for him and it will be interesting to see how he does against Duke's weak post defense.
Stats of the Night:
19: Early on in this one, it wasn't apparent that Arizona was going to win. The Wildcats came out flat and unprepared for the foe that stood in front of them. Whether it was the earlier drubbings of NIT opponents or the look ahead to Duke, Arizona just didn't seem ready for the first punch that Drexel threw.
The lack of offense and defense from Arizona allowed Drexel to jump out to a 27-8 lead with just under seven minutes left in the game. The Wildcats countered with a 25-4 run to take the first lead of the game, effectively erasing the 19-point deficit.
My thoughts for the game are pretty simple. Arizona didn't show up to play right away and it cost it some points early on. If Arizona plays hard from the opening tip, like it has the whole season, the game is probably not as tight as it ended up being.
Another thing to note about the slow start is that Arizona wasn't running a good offense and Drexel couldn't miss. The Wildcats were at one end, rushing shots and playing isolation basketball and the Dragons were at the other end hitting contested three-pointers. Those aren't the keys to success if Arizona hopes to take home the NIT title on Friday.
One thing that did happen Wednesday that shows how scary of a team Arizona can be is that several players had slow nights. Brandon Ashley made just one of his eight shots, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a non-factor offensively and Gabe York had a goose egg in his six shot attempts.
What makes Arizona scary is the fact that Nick Johnson and Kaleb Tarczewksi were both stellar for one half each and it was enough for the Wildcats to overcome a 19-point deficit.
It is easy to say that Tarczewski had a poor first half and Johnson eased off the gas pedal in the second half, but combined, they each played their parts in the comeback and the rest of the team rose to the occasion to help Arizona pull it out.
T.J. McConnell hit a big three to start the second half and another to give his team the largest lead of the night late in the game. Aaron Gordon hit a remarkable seven of his eight free throws and finished with a double-double. Arizona only needed one great half from two players and smaller performances by the supporting cast to make that incredible comeback.
Sean Miller Quotable:
"I think the story line for this game may be that Arizona was overlooking Drexel but that's the furthest thing from the truth," Miller said. "We watched every tape and invested a lot of time and it became apparent to me we were in for a handful."
"We kind of came out flat in the first half but we wanted to come out strong in the second half," Tarczewski said. "Our guards did a great job of getting me the ball. I missed some shots early but they did a good job."