Arizona was able to pull away from Missouri on Monday afternoon by dominating the second half. Read on to find out who the player of the game was, how Arizona won, and more.
Arizona started slow, but was able to pull away in the second half for a 72-53 win over Missouri to open the Maui Invitational. Here’s a closer look at what happened:
Arizona Player of the Game:
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: The sophomore came off the bench to start the game, but started the second half on the court and gave Arizona the boost that it needed to get over a midgame slump. Hollis-Jefferson was able to score quickly and efficiently, even hitting a three-pointer on his way to a 15-point night.
The sophomore’s play helped the Wildcats push for a bigger lead out of the locker room and played tough defense on the other end of the court, grabbing five defensive rebounds in the process.
Four minutes in, Brandon Ashley took a pass from T.J. McConnell, drove past a defender and made a layup as the whistle blew for a foul. Ashley made a free throw after the media timeout to tie the game at 7. Arizona followed up with four points from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and a free throw from Stanley Johnson during a 12-2 run to take a 12-7 lead.
Late in the first half, McConnell stole a pass and took it the length of the court for a layup to put the Wildcats up 27-22. After a three from Missouri, McConnell found Elliott Pitts for a wide open three. The point guard added two more points and the Wildcats were able to close out the half on a 11-4 run with a 32-25 lead.
Right out of halftime, Hollis-Jefferson got things started quickly. The sophomore scored a quick two under the basket and then hit a three pointer to give the Wildcats a 12-point lead, forcing Missouri to call a timeout. Arizona continued to pull away and the outcome was never in doubt.
Stat of the Night:
17 - Arizona’s stifling defense forced Missouri into 17 turnovers throughout the night. The tight pressure was the reason that the Wildcats were able to pull away late in the game after wearing down the Tigers. In addition, Arizona only had 6 turnovers of its own, which is a recipe for success.
Overall, I think Arizona played a solid game. The Wildcats only turned the ball over six times, played together as a team and wore down the opponent. Arizona isn’t going to blow teams out this year, but the win over Missouri is a perfect example of how the Wildcats will wear teams down and take over in the last ten minutes of the game.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Stanley Johnson played tonight. There were times that he still had his freshmen moments, but he is starting to get a better feel for the game and had several moments that showed flashes of what he should be at the end of the season.
Johnson had a massive steal and dunk, was able to get around a defender in traffic for a bank shot, and hit some open shots. If Arizona is going to go dancing into the third weekend this season, Johnson will be the reason.
The final thing to take away from the game is the incredible amount of talent that is still developing. Dusan Ristic had a solid performance, even hitting a three ball. Parker Jackson-Cartwright look comfortable running the point guard position and Elliott Pitts had a good all-around performance, finishing with the highest plus-minus on the team with +18 in 17 minutes of action. This is a team that is going to be very dangerous down the stretch if the pieces develop over the course of the season.
Sean Miller Quotable:
"I talked a couple weeks ago about when you have a group of guys that have been in a lot of big games like we have, many times we should be like a fast starting team where you kind of see that confidence early on," Miller said. "Man, I haven't seen it yet."
"Our coach always tells us we have to take care of the ball," Hollis-Jefferson said. "We have to feed the inside. When we feed the inside, good things happen. That's what we do on defense. We pressure the ball, try to get turnovers, get stops. Being in the gap helps us a lot, and that's what we take pride in."