Arizona did win by a final score of 91-58, but the game was marred by sloppy defense and rebounding lapses and it was a closer than the score indicates.
Saint Louis grabbed a mind boggling 20 offensive rebounds. This is especially disheartening when the Billikens should be the tired ones. After all, offensive rebounds are all about hustle. There is no way this should happen. You can bet rebounding will be addressed in Wednesday's practice.
Another negative in Tuesday's game was the fact that the press could not force many turnovers. Saint Louis had only 14 turnovers for the game, and only about five were the result of the press. This is a far cry from the results of the Western Kentucky and Northern Arizona games, where both clubs had trouble getting the ball across half court. The Billikens' success was mostly due to the quickness of Marque Perry, who was by far Saint Louis' best player.
Arizona started slowly again, as Saint Louis stuck with Arizona for about the first 10 minutes. The lead continued to grow, but everyone expected the big spurt that was present in the two preseason games and two preceding regular season games. The spurt never came, but methodically Arizona continued to separate themselves from Saint Louis and had a 48-31 advantage going into the locker room.
In the second half, the Billikens once again stayed with the Wildcats for about seven or eight minutes. They even cut into the lead and made it a 16-point game, but that was as close as they would get the remaider of the evening. Arizona continued to increase the lead as Saint Louis went stone cold on the offensive side in the second half. Arizona's half court defense in the second half was much better, but it seemed like Saint Louis was missing a lot of open looks and not taking advantage of offensive rebounds. Arizona cruised to their 3rd victory to start the season, beating the Billikens by a final of 91-58.
While he wasn't the leading scorer, Marque Perry led Saint Louis. Perry almost single-handedly broke the Arizona press and gave the Billikens a shot to stay in the game. He scored only nine points and had four assists, but if it weren't for his effort the Arizona pressure probably would have run Saint Louis out of the building. Josh Fisher was the leading scorer for Saint Louis, scoring 16 points. He was 8-11 from the field and overall was very impressive. Senior center Kenny Brown had a double-double with 10 points and ten rebounds. However, Brown had one embarrassing sequence in the game when he was blocked twice by Channing Frye consecutively, then on his third attempt was blocked out of bounds.by Rick Anderson. Brown was very active on the boards and grabed seven offensive rebounds. No other players on Saint Louis had six points or six rebounds.
Arizona's leading man once again was Jason Gardner. He was the only player to play more than 21 minutes, logging 30. He had 16 points on 4-6 shooting from long range. Gardner seemed to be going through the motions at times, but hit key three pointers whenever Saint Louis smelled a run. His defense is getting better, but he can still be shot over by taller opponents. He flawlessly ran the show, committing just two turnovers in the game.
Rick Anderson was the second high scorer with 13 points in only 20 minutes. Anderson made his living at the line as he was 6-8 from the stripe. His hustle in the paint and good positioning down low allowed him to draw fouls on the less talented Saint Louis big men. Anderson by no means had a huge game, but once again was solid in his limited minutes.
Channing Frye had 11 points and nine rebounds and was solid on the offensive end. On the defensive end, he was pushed around by the bigger Brown who was largely responsible for the Billikens offensive rebounds, especially in the first half. In the second half Brown pulled down five of his seven defensive rebounds.
Frye split time with Isaiah Fox, who did not miss a shot (5-5) and pulled down six rebounds. Fox was obviously motivated by not starting, played just 17 minutes and had a very solid game.
Hassan Adams wasn't as big a factor as he was in the first two games, but still had a 10-point performance. He had one electrifying dunk, but continues to over-pursue at times, which leads him to getting beat on the press. Olson also was upset with Adams in the second half for bad shot selection and sloppy defense.
Conversely, Andre Igoudala was all over the boards and led the team with 10 (6 offensive) rebounds. Igoudala played very good defense, as he pressured his opponent all night. He could really by a nightmare on the press for the opposition if he continues to learn throughout the year.
Luke Walton and Salim Stoudamire, who are still recovering from injuries, had very slow days. Walton had only one point but dished out seven assists and grabbed four rebounds. His passing is uncanny, but his shot was not falling. It's obvious he isn't back to where he should be after suffering the two ankle injuries. Stoudamire came off the bench and played only 12 minutes, but showed he could be big time this year with his defense and long range shooting. He is going to really stretch zone defenses this year, but he needs to get healthy. He finished with six points on two long three pointers but also missed five others.
Will Bynum was all over the place and felt the worst of Lute's wrath. He took wild shots and found his spot on the bench for a majority of the game. Once again the sophomore played good defense, but was largely out of control and did not help the team. He continues to bring a street ball attitude to the team, which can be entertaining at times, but at other times is detrimental to Arizona's team concept and causes turnovers.
All in all, this was a solid game and should act as a good learning experience. While things were not as sharp as one might like, it is not a big concern. The team almost seems bored at times and might need more of a challenge. When they felt challenged against Western Kentucky, they came out and blew them out of the building. San Diego State could provide that motivation as Cox Arena is a tough place to play and San Diego State was a tournament team last year. Arizona's depth is really coming into play, as Olson never seems to have to worry about foul trouble. No one besides Gardner is playing more than 25 minutes and everyone seems to be getting into the swing of things. Right now they look tough to beat. Next stop, sunny San Diego and the Aztecs.
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