Postgame Analysis: Arizona vs. Duke

Arizona won the NIT Championship on Friday night. The Wildcats improved to 7-0 with a win over Duke. Read on for an analysis of the victory, including the player of the game, which plays were key, and more.

The Arizona Wildcats became the NIT Season Tip-Off champion on Friday night as they won a tight one over Duke 72-66 to improve to 7-0 on the season. Here's an analysis of what happened:

Arizona Player of the Game:

T.J. McConnell – The junior point guard had a breakout game on a national stage. Not to say that he played poorly in the previous ones, but his performance on Friday overshadowed all six of the other games he has played as a Wildcat.

McConnell finished the night with ten points and eight assists, which are marvelous numbers for a point guard. To top that off, he had just two turnovers in the game and one of them was on a lob that he threw just a little too hard. His performance against the Blue Devils proved that he will be a valuable asset to the team when March rolls around.

Key Moments:

  • Just when it looked like Duke was going to break away with an early lead, the Wildcats used a 7-0 run to take the lead. A Quinn Cook layup gave Duke an 11-6 lead. However, Brandon Ashley hit a three on the next trip down the floor and hit a layup off of a T.J. McConnell pass on the next. Gabe York made a layup in transition and Arizona took a small lead.

  • It took nearly seven minutes, but Arizona's first field goal of the second half cut down Duke's largest lead of the game. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson took a pass from Aaron Gordon and slammed it home, cutting the Duke lead to 43-39. It also sparked an 18-5 run that gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead.

  • During Arizona's big run, Nick Johnson finally broke out of a slump that had been plaguing him all night. With the shot clock winding down and the Wildcats trailing 45-42, Johnson took a screen and nailed the three-pointer beating the buzzer. He broke out of his slump and finished the game with fifteen points.

  • One of the best plays of the game may have come just a few minutes later. Gordon caught the ball down low and had just a single defender between him and the basket. After a swift move, he shuffled an underhand pass to Hollis-Jefferson, who threw it down, making it a ten-point lead for the Wildcats with just under four minutes to go in the game.

    Stats of the Night:

    18: The Wildcats finished the night with 18 assists in the championship game. What makes this an incredible stat is that Arizona only had 23 made field goals on the night. McConnell had eight assists in the game, leading the team. Aaron Gordon added four of his own assists and Nick Johnson dished out three more. The Wildcats did have sixteen turnovers, but only seven came from the guard position.

    General Thoughts:

    Arizona played well for the first half of the game, but couldn't stop Jabari Parker. He put up a ton of shots, but still seemed like one of the most active players on the floor. Arizona slowed him down the best it could, but Parker is just one of those players who is going to get his points.

    Kaleb Tarczewski played the second best game of his career, following his best game of his career. The sophomore was aggressive on offense and on the glass. He still made plenty of mistakes, but they were mistakes that you can take. Given, Tarczewski made a few too many, but it was good for the Wildcats to get some positive emotion from him.

    For as bad as he played in the first half and part of the second half, Nick Johnson really stepped up his game down the stretch to help his team pull it out. It showed great leadership from him and was a sign of a veteran player.

    The final note of the night is that Arizona's runs are in full effect this season, as they were last year. Once the Wildcats get in a groove, it is hard to knock them off. It is how they opened up comfortable leads all season so far.

    This year's team is special though. Arizona used an 18-5 run to jump ahead by 9, but did it almost entirely with Brandon Ashley on the bench with four fouls. This Arizona team is deep and has multiple weapons that can hurt teams on any given night.

    Sean Miller Quotable:

    "He stayed patient, which is one of the qualities that he has as a player," Miller said of Gordon. "I chose not to play him a lot in the first half, because he was in foul trouble. He played 20 minutes in the second half, so he was out there more. But we as a group have to find ways to use his offensive talent even more, and he's such a unique player."

    Wildcat Quotable:

    "We're an all-around team," Johnson said. "Really you could see it in the box score. It was pretty even all the way around. We're a good team and we can play with anybody."

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