Arizona had to fight for the 72-68 win over Kansas State. Read on to find out who the player of the game was, what the key moments were, and more.
Arizona had to battle for the full 40 minutes, but came away with a 72-68 win over Kansas State to advance to the Championship Game of the Maui Invitational. Here’s a closer look at what happened:
Arizona Player of the Game:
Kaleb Tarczewski – The junior had his best game of the short season and was a major reason that Arizona was able to come away with the victory. Tarczewski scored many of his career-high 18 points during a post battle with Thomas Gipson, often trading baskets with the big man.
The center wasn’t at his best on the glass, only grabbing three rebounds, but played solid defensively and provided quality help defense on several possessions.
Midway through the first half, Arizona was trailing 17-10. The Wildcats went on a big run, fueled by two Kaleb Tarczewski dunks to get back into the game. Arizona was able to cut the deficit to just one with the 6-0 run.
Tied at 36 four minutes into the second half, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finally made his presence known in the game. His first two field goal attempts of the game were dunks, one off an inbounds play and the other on a tip slam to put the Wildcats up 40-36, giving Arizona momentum for the rest of the game.
With tne minutes left in the game, Arizona finally started to pull away from Kansas State. T.J. McConnell hit a three off a pass from Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York followed that with a three of his own to cap a 10-0 run that gave Arizona a 52-43 lead.
Kansas State battled back, never giving up hope and the game wasn’t over until Hollis-Jefferson sank two free throws with four seconds on the clock to put Arizona up by four. Marcus Foster missed a three as time expired and the Wildcats advanced to the title game.
Stat of the Night:
63 - One of the major reasons that Arizona was able to win the semifinal matchup was through offensive efficiency in the second half. The Wildcats were able to hit 12 of their 19 shots after halftime. Every one was vital down the stretch, including all three long balls Arizona put in.
Arizona wasn’t able to pull away from Kansas State and that was mostly due to Marcus Foster. When a player goes 6-9 from behind the arc and hits shots with hands in his face and getting bumped, there isn’t much that you can do besides try to slow him down.
Sure, Arizona struggled to do that for most of the second half, but when it came down to crunch time, the Wildcats put Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on Foster and held the shooting guard to just two field goals in the final four minutes.
It wasn’t the prettiest game, but it was a good challenge for Arizona. It seems cliché to say, but this is the type of game that will help down the stretch. Playing in a close game gives experience and meaningful minutes to everyone on the court. Gabe York and Stanley Johnson were both players that will benefit the most from the end game situations that they were both put in.
Speaking of York and Johnson, both were right up there as candidates for the Player of the Game award. York finished with a season-high 15 points, hitting four shots from inside the arc. Johnson sat a majority of the second half with foul trouble, but still managed to score 14 points and grab seven rebounds.
Sean Miller Quotable:
"We watched Marcus quite a bit on film as much as we could in one day, and we scouted Kansas State ahead of time," Miller said. "Respect isn't a good enough word to describe how we categorize him as a player. There aren't too many guards in this country who are better basketball players who mean more to their team."
"I think as a freshman, this was my first game where it was like super intense," Johnson said. "You kind of feel it from the start of the game."