This was basically a game of “what if.”
What if Vince Hunter doesn’t foul out?
What if Arizona makes its free-throws?
What if UTEP does not start out so poorly?
You could probably keep going, but there’s not much of a need because it doesn’t show up in the end result. Arizona won its first true road test of the season against a team that has one of the best players in the country.
I said before this game that I would be really surprised if Arizona ran away with it because the Miners just had a lot going for them before tip. They have a guy that can take them to the next level, biggest home game in history, Arizona has some young guys that have never been in that type of environment, etc.
The game pretty much played out the way I thought it would. Hunter was really good, but struggles with foul trouble and obviously did so again on Friday. You have to give credit to UTEP for not getting blown out once Hunter went out of the game, but you also had to have realized that there was almost no way the Miners were winning without him.
Basketball is a team sport, but it was pretty apparent that Arizona won in large part because of two players. T.J. McConnell was one point, two assists, and three rebounds away from a triple double. You can make the case that this was his best game of the season when you factor in the foul trouble and a few other things.
I also think we got another taste of what type of player Stanley Johnson is becoming. Not many freshmen can put together a 17-point, six rebound, four steal performance in his first road game. There were times where the offensive strategy was basically to give it to Johnson and have him draw a foul and it worked for the most part as he went 6-9 from the line.
Tarczewski was bad offensively for just about the entire game. However, that does not account for his defense. In the second half, his defense was considerably better and he gave UTEP major fits in the paint. It won’t show up in the box score, but if you are wondering why Miller trusts him so much, you got your answer midway through the second half.
Ashley shot the ball well, but it was a pretty poor defensive game from him. His biggest issue defensively is his lateral speed and Hunter completely exposed him on Friday night. Ashley just had no chance to stay with him and it showed. Arizona was more successful with Hunter when Rondae or even Stanley was on him, but obviously you have to give some credit to Hunter and how good of a player he is.
This was simply a good win against a team that is better than people think. It shows the younger guys what it takes to go on the road and besides Gonzaga, it was easily the biggest test of the season. Did Arizona play very well? No, probably not. But it played well enough to win and that’s all that matters sometimes.