Arizona pulled away late to beat Mount St. Mary's on Friday night. Read on to find out who the player of the game was, what the key plays were, and more.
Arizona’s season officially started on Friday night and the Wildcats were able to come away with a 78-55 win over Mount St. Mary’s. Here’s a closer look at what happened:
Arizona Player of the Game:
Brandon Ashley – The junior’s first official game back from his injury was one of his best in a Wildcat uniform, as he finished with a career-high 21 points and added six rebounds and an assist.
To make things better for the big man, Ashley was able to stay out of foul trouble, something that plagued him last season before missing the second half of the season. Ashley's defense was not stellar, but he played well enough on the defensive end to help his team hold Mount St. Mary’s to just 16 points in the paint and only four second chance points.
After not starting the game, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made his presence known with just over 12 minutes to go in the first half. The sophomore stole a pass on the defensive end and took it the length of the floor to throw down a monster dunk, giving the Wildcats a 11-4 lead.
Late in the first half, Arizona’s offense came to life through Brandon Ashley. The junior surged for six of his points in a three-minute stretch that saw the Wildcats get a 28-20 lead. The Mountaineers countered with five quick points and kept the game close.
After those five points, Arizona opened the game up for good, going on a 12-0 run capped off with a three breakaway dunks, two from Hollis- Jefferson and one from Ashley, giving the Wildcats a 40-25 lead heading into halftime.
Arizona and Mt. St . Mary’s battled back and forth for most of the second half, but the Wildcats put things away with 8:31 remaining in the second half. Parker Jackson-Cartwright capped a 9-0 Arizona run with a spin move in the lane for his second bucket of the night, putting the Wildcats up 60-44.
Stat of the Night:
27 - Arizona scored 27 points off turnovers throughout the night. The Wildcats forced 16 turnovers and turned several of them into fastbreak monster dunks that got McKale Center rocking at key times during the game, including the 9-0 run to end the first half.
I think Arizona played a solid game for the most part. The Wildcats struggled at times to take control of the game, but had some very bright spots throughout the night. Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Kaleb Tarczewski played complete and efficient games, with only four missed shots between the three of them while combining for 46 points.
While Sean Miller was coy in the pre-season about his lineup, he still decided to play nine Wildcats in the season opener. Hollis-Jefferson, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Dusan Ristic, Elliott Pitts, and Craig Victor all played more that five minutes in the win, showing that Miller is willing to go to his bench, even briefly, to get his starters some rest.
Although this was the first official game, I am still somewhat disappointed by Stanley Johnson’s performance. He hit just two of his eight shots, both coming in the lane and missed all four three pointers that he took. It is still early and there were times that he looked like he was pressing himself too much, but there is still plenty of room for improvement from the highly touted recruit.
Sean Miller Quotable:
”Kaleb (Tarczewski) is a great defensive player,” Sean Miller said. “He doesn’t have the length of a great shot blocker, although he will get a few. When you look at what he does to anchor our defense, it’s irreplaceable. He’s experienced and physical and tough and smart. He was terrific for us defensively.”
”With this team, we have a lot of length and a lot of athleticism,” Brandon Ashley said. “Defense is definitely one of the main keys in how well we are going to play this year. The last couple possessions of the first half is definitely a tell of how good we can be defensively.”