Postgame Analysis: Arizona vs. Utah

Arizona had to come from behind, but was able to get the win on Sunday night, improving to 20-0. Read on to find out how they did it, the player of the game, and more.

Arizona got off to a slow start and had to claw its way back into the game on Sunday night. Utah kept the game close, but the Wildcats pulled away late for a 65-56 win. Here's an analysis of what happened:

Arizona Player of the Game:

Nick Johnson – It may not have been his best performance of the season, but it was pretty darn close. Johnson finished with 22 points, hitting 9 of his 18 shots on the night. The junior guard was a force on the offensive end of the court, getting to the rim at will.

Johnson was also very active on the defensive side of the ball. He came up with a steal and grabbed all four of his rebounds on the defensive glass. He was the true difference maker in this one.

Key Moments:

  • Utah jumped out to an early lead as the Utes hit their first three shots before the Wildcats could find their rhythm. Arizona had to dig out of the 7-0 hole early on and it took a while, but Nick Johnson was able to score Arizona's first basket on a layup in traffic.

  • After a lazy pass, Delon Wright stole the ball and took it for a layup, but it was goal-tended by Gabe York. That made it a 12-2 deficit for the Wildcats, causing Sean Miller to call a timeout.

  • That timeout seemed to do the trick for Arizona as the players returned to the court with much more energy than they had shown previously. The Wildcats grabbed multiple offensive rebounds, allowing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to score on a second-chance bucket.

    Shortly after, Johnson drilled a three-pointer in the corner and got McKale Center rocking. Arizona used the momentum and went on a 12-0 run capped off by a Gabe York basket and the foul.

  • With 2:12 left in the first half, Arizona got a small spark from Kaleb Tarczewski to finish the period strong. Tarczewski hit two free throws to give Arizona the lead, but his real contribution came with fractions of a second to go before the buzzer. Aaron Gordon grabbed a rebound and raced down the court, air balling a layup, but Tarczewski was there to slam it home as time expired, giving Arizona a 31-26 lead at halftime.

  • At the 14:27 mark in the second half, Nick Johnson drove the lane and made a floater over Jeremy Olsen and was fouled in the process. He hit the free throw to give the Wildcats a 43-39 lead. Arizona added to it a few possessions later with two Brandon Ashley free throws. They were immediately followed by Kenneth Ogbe's three from the corner, leaving Arizona with a 45-42 lead.

  • With just over five minutes remaining in the game. Arizona was clinging to a 53-49 lead when the Wildcats finally took over. A missed three-pointer from T.J. McConnell was grabbed by Ashley, who scored on a layup. The next possession down the court, Johnson took his dribble to the baseline, zipping past Dallin Bachynski and slamming it home, picking up the and-one.

    After a missed shot by Utah, Johnson took to the lane again, slashing towards the basket before letting a floater fly with ease over the defense, giving his team a 59-49 lead, as Arizona never looked back.

    Stats of the Night:

    20: On Thursday night, Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller was upset with his teams' rebounding effort. He must have gotten through to his players as the Wildcats out-rebounded the Utes 40-29 in the game. Twenty of those Arizona rebounds came at the offensive end of court, compared to Utah's nine. Those 20 offensive boards led to 19 second chance points.

    General Thoughts:

    Arizona was slow to start the game, but eventually found a way to pull it out. The Wildcats started the game 1-9 from the field, but found a way to fight back and keep the game close and in their favor towards the end of the game.

    It was the perfect example of a game where Arizona was able to wear down the opponent until late in the game when it was able to take over.

    It may get looked over, but Aaron Gordon very quietly had a double-double in the game. He finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds on the night, but made his presence known on the offensive glass, grabbing seven of the twelve rebounds off of missed Wildcat shots.

    He didn't have the best game offensively, but he found a way to be effective without being a scoring machine, which is what separates him from most of the other freshmen in the country.

    In addition to Gordon's effort, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did a great job on the glass as well. It seemed that every time Arizona missed a shot, either Gordon or Hollis-Jefferson was there to corral the ball. Both were instrumental to Ariozna remaining undefeated.

    The Wildcats got the Utes best shot and will continue to get the best shot from each team for the remainder of the season. Going on the road to the Bay Area won't be an easy trip for Arizona. In fact, it may be the hardest road trip remaining on the schedule for Arizona.

    Sean Miller Quotable:

    "Nick Johnson is playing as well as any guard in the country," Sean Miller said. "It is that simple. He's the reason we are number one, the big games that we've had. He's done it in the biggest moments. He's terrific. I'm not even talking about offense. I'm talking about leadership and playing more than one position, defending the other team's best perimeter player. He's a heck of a player right now for us."

    Wildcat Quotable:

    "My all-around game wasn't too well," Aaron Gordon said. "Rebounding comes naturally to me and I was just taking out my frustration on the rebounding.

    "I learned from a young age that if things aren't going your way, then you have to do some things to turn the tide and make it go your way. So I was focusing on defense and rebounding. The ball wasn't going in the rim tonight, so I was focusing on other aspects.


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