Arizona came from behind to beat Gonzaga 66-63 on Saturday. Read to find out who the player of the game was, what the key plays were, and more.
Arizona had to come from behind against Gonzaga, but the Wildcats were able to pull out a 66-63 victory in overtime. Here’s a closer look at what happened:
Arizona Player of the Game:
Brandon Ashley – Many Wildcats stepped up at certain points in the game, but none were more important than the junior power forward. He had three straight baskets late in the game to tie it up at 60 and played aggressively all night, despite having foul trouble. Ashley finished with 14 points and six rebounds, while hitting both of his three point attempts. He also added two assists and a block.
With just under five minutes to go in the first half, Gonzaga opened its biggest lead of the game. Byron Wesley hit a wide open three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 23-17 lead.
Late in the first half, Arizona rallied back. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson drove through the lane and found a wide-open Elliott Pitts in the corner for a three. The score tied the game at 27 with 40 seconds remaining. Neither team could take advantage and went to the locker room tied.
It got a little chippy to start the second half. Things did not go Arizona’s way to start out, as Gonzaga raced out to a six-point lead. The Wildcats started to pull back into it with a Kaleb Tarczewski and-one play under the basket. It cut the lead to three, but Gonzaga answered right back with a quick two.
Both teams traded baskets for several minutes, but Gonzaga started pulling away with just under eight minutes to go. With the shot clock winding down, Gary Bell nailed a three-pointer to put the Bulldogs up by four. Two free throws later and the Wildcats were back down by six.
Arizona continued trailing, but put forth a surging effort with just under three minutes to play. Ashley hit a layup in traffic and then shot two jump shots in a row to tie the game at 60. Neither team was able to score in the final minutes, with T.J. McConnell getting a key steal and Gonzaga missing a shot at the buzzer, sending the teams to overtime.
McConnell was back at it in overtime, scoring on a bank shot on the first possession of the extra period to give the Wildcats their first lead since the 8:42 mark in the first half. He followed it up with a soft leaner and the Wildcats pulled ahead by four.
After McConnell made just two of four free throws, Gonzaga had a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer. As the clock wound down Elliott Pitts was whistled with a questionable foul on Byron Wesley as he was attempting a three-pointer with one second remaining. Wesley missed all three free throws and the Wildcats were able to win.
Stats of the Night:
14-5 - Arizona closed the game with the stingiest defense that it has shown all season. The Wildcats tightened it up for the final four minutes of regulation and the entirety of overtime. During the nine-minute stretch, Arizona went on a 14-5 run, holding Gonzaga to just one field goal and two free throws. The Bulldogs hit just one of eight shots, two of five free throws and had six turnovers in that span.
I’ll be the first to tell you that Arizona played a much better game than I expected it to. The defense shut down Gonzaga and never really gave up. Despite the Bulldogs seeming to have major momentum, the Wildcats never trailed by more than six. There were some big play moments in the game for Arizona down the stretch and there weren’t for Gonzaga. That was the difference in the game. The Wildcats buckled down when it got to crunch time and made plays when the Bulldogs didn’t. That’s a sign of a team that should do big things in March and this team still has plenty of time to get better.
Coming into the season, I questioned whether Arizona would be able to survive these games because there was no go-to player on the court. In a night where Gabe York, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson struggled, Brandon Ashley, T.J. McConnell, and Kaleb Tarczewski picked up the slack. This team may not have that one superior scorer who is going to always get the ball when the game is on the line, but it has enough options that someone will find a way to find the bucket.
Sean Miller Quotable:
”The lion’s share of the big moments in the game, Rondae was on Kevin Pangos,” Sean Miller said. “He did a great job of just making the game hard. That’s one of the strengths of our team. We won today’s game because of our defense.”
”I just knew I had to put them away,” T.J. McConnell said about his free throws at the end of the game. “Obviously I didn’t do that. I’m going to be in the gym tomorrow working on it and try to get better. That’s what it comes down to.”