Postgame Analysis: Arizona vs. UNLV

Arizona won a close one over UNLV on Saturday to stay undefeated. Read on for a closer look at the win, including the co-players of the game, what the key moments were, and more.

The Arizona Wildcats were tested on Saturday as a 3-3 UNLV team went to McKale Center and gave the home team a run for its money. The Wildcats came out with the 63-58 win in the annual white out game to move to 9-0. Here's an analysis of what happened:

Arizona Co-Players of the Game:

T.J. McConnell – The junior point guard was forced to score and help his team win on Saturday. He did just that, finishing with 13 points. That wasn't all for McConnell as he added six assists, three steals, and an unusual seven rebounds as well. He hit multiple big shots and had clutch steals to get his team back on track.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – The true freshman was an unsung hero of the game. Hollis-Jefferson played one of his most complete games of the season. He finished the night with only nine points, but played tremendous defense throughout the night. Hollis-Jefferson grabbed seven rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass. In addition, the freshman was the most energetic player on the floor for the entire game.

Key Moments:

  • After falling behind early in the game, Arizona fought to get back in it. The Wildcats took the lead back with a Nick Johnson layup in traffic to make it 17-16. Arizona and UNLV traded long balls, with Johnson hitting an open trey to give his team the lead 20-19 with ten minutes left in the first half. It was his first five points of the night.

  • Both teams traded baskets back and forth, staying with in one-point of each other until the under-eight media timeout. Hollis-Jefferson made a bucket going into the timeout to give Arizona a 24-23 lead. There was a foul on UNLV during the shot away from the ball which gave the Wildcats another possession.

    Johnson buried a contested three from the corner out of the timeout and Brandon Ashley had a hook shot in the lane on the next trip down the court to give Arizona a 29-23 cushion.

  • The Wildcats started letting UNLV get back into the game, but Hollis-Jefferson wasn't going to let that happen. With Arizona sitting with a 31-29 lead, the small forward found Kaleb Tarczewski for an easy dunk in the lane. After stealing the ball at the other end, he found Aaron Gordon for a big dunk in transition.

    UNLV answered with a quick two, but Hollis-Jefferson wasn't done. This time, he found T.J. McConnell cutting the baseline for an easy reverse layup that gave Arizona a 37-31 lead.

  • UNLV went on a big run to end the first half and took all of the momentum into the locker room. UNLV used some key steals, a three-pointer in transition and a few Arizona mistakes to go on a 9-2 run heading into halftime. It gave the Runnin' Rebels a 42-39 lead going into the break.

  • The Runnin' Rebels may have taken momentum to the locker room, but they left it there. Arizona started the second half surging. Brandon Ashley made a hook shot, McConnell stole the ball for an easy layup, and Kaleb Tarczewski put back an offensive rebound during a 6-0 run for the Wildcats, putting them back on top.

  • With nine minutes left in the game and UNLV leading by one, McConnell dribbled around a few defenders and found himself with some room at the free throw line. He dished out a bounce pass to a cutting Johnson and the Wildcats took the lead 54-53, setting up a wild final eight minutes.

  • The biggest shot of the night came from McConnell. Hollis-Jefferson found him as he as cutting across the free-throw line and the point guard executed the catch-and-shoot perfectly. The bucket put Arizona up for good as the Wildcats extended the lead to five before the final buzzer sounded.

    Stats of the Night:

    6: Coming into the game, UNLV's Roscoe Smith averaged over sixteen rebounds per game and his lowest total of the season was ten. However, Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon combined to hold Smith to just six rebounds on Saturday afternoon. It was a tremendous effort on the glass, which further supports Arizona's claim of being a great rebounding team.

    General Thoughts:

    Arizona didn't play well at all during this game. In fact, it may have been the worst game that the Wildcats have played all season.

    The defense wasn't awful, but in the first half, it wasn't good either. The Runnin' Rebels shot 64-percent from the field in the first half, though that number dropped dramatically to 28-percent in the second half, for a 46-percent game effort. It also helped the Arizona effort that UNLV was held to just 16 points in the second half.

    Even though the Wildcats pulled it out and came away with the victory, there were plenty of things to take away from the game.

    T.J. McConnell was forced to look for his own shot and score during the game, which is something that he does not and has not done often. The point guard did it well in his turn to carry the team on his back.

    Arizona may not have very many more games like this one, where the entire team seems to miss point blank shots, but nights like this will come and it is important to notice the depth that Arizona showed in terms of playmakers and players who can push the team to victory.

    Today, there were small moments for each player, but McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson were the two who had to take over. Other nights, Johnson will be the one to step up and Arizona is coming off a game in which Gordon was the go-to guy.

    Even though the Wildcats may only be six or seven players deep, each one of those players has the ability to take over the game and carry the team. This becomes a scary thought for other teams with only one or two elite players when it comes time for the NCAA Tournament.

    Sean Miller Quotable:

    "We have to enjoy being number one," Miller said. "It's an honor that you earn. It never comes your way. There's not a player, coach, or even out fans that doesn't want to say that they've watched or participated or were a part of the number one team in the nation.

    "How long we have that is not up to us, but I feel like we've earned it through our performance. We have something that I think is an honor. I'm happy for our players and great fans."

    Wildcat Quotable:

    "Definitely," McConnell said when asked if he thought about the rankings this week. "But, we were thinking thinking about UNLV all week. Now that we've won and we're possibly number one, it is satisfying."

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