Nick Johnson went for 24 points and four assists and Aaron Gordon chipped in with 18 points and 11 boards as No. 1 Arizona survived an upset-bid from visiting Washington, beating the Huskies 71-62.
C.J. Wilcox led the way for the Huskies with 20 points, but where Washington did most of their damage was in the paint and around the rim. Shawn Kemp Jr. and Perris Blackwell combined for 21 points and 17 boards while shooting 9-for-11 from the floor. Washington’s perimeter trio of Wilcox, Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews did most of their damage off the dribble as well. The Huskies shot 55.6% from the floor in the first half and we still over 50% from field well into the second half.
At the same time, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashely combined for just 11 boards while committing eight fouls and four turnovers and shooting 3-for-15 from the field.
Those are a lot of numbers to throw at you, but I have a point here, I swear.
The strength of this Arizona team is that they are terrific defensively and that they have the kind of front court size that will overwhelm smaller opponents. That’s their bread and butter, and on Saturday afternoon, Washington spent 30 minutes outplaying the Wildcats in the paint and slicing up that vaunted defense.
Good teams win games when they don’t play well, and the bottom-line is that Arizona simply didn’t play well on Saturday. I don’t usually put much stock in what head coaches say during halftime interviews, but Sean Miller had a telling quote on the Pac-12 Network’s broadcast. When asked what adjustments the Wildcats needed to make to overcome a 35-33 halftime deficit, Miller simply said, “No adjustments. We’re going to do what we do, we just need to do it better.”
It took well into the second half for Arizona to do that, but they eventually did. The game-changing run for the Wildcats featured a stretch of nine straight field goals that were either dunks or layups.
That’s how Arizona has to win games.
Much is made about the ball when it comes to how the sport of basketball is played and rightfully so, as the ball is the most important piece of equipment. Different brands have different characteristics, and with college basketball programs being able to pick the ball they use for home games there are adjustments to be made during the season.
Wisconsin will play at No. 2 Maryland Saturday, meaning that in the days leading up to the game the Badgers needed to get used to the Under Armour basketball. The brand became a conversation point in the aftermath of Maryland’s win over No. 4 Iowa last month, with the Hawkeyes (while not blaming the ball for their loss) made note of the differences between the Under Armour ball and the Nike ball they use for their home games.
Thursday Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes offered up his observations on the basketball while also pointing out (albeit sarcastically) the goal of intercollegiate athletics.
“It’s definitely different,” Hayes said. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.
“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.”
Hayes makes a good point here, and in regards to the NBA all hell would break loose under similar circumstances (remember the leather vs. microfiber composite controversy in 2006?). If these games are solely about fun and the college experience, wouldn’t having one ball used by all schools better fit that mission? This isn’t the biggest of deals when it comes to “amateur” athletics, as different basketball brands have been used for years.
But Hayes was able to take this situation and work it into the discussion of the goals of intercollegiate athletics. Is it about the experience? Or does the ability to profit, be it through a minor move such as using a particular ball or the more impactful step of moving from one conference to another, take precedence? Given the shifts that have occurred in college sports in recent years, it’s quite apparent that the search for additional revenue streams has won out.
Hayes did note that neither he nor his teammates would make excuses, saying that the team would simple “have to get used to” the unfamiliar basketball according to the Wisconsin State Journal. In the end, this was a good use of sarcasm by Hayes to make a greater point about the collegiate athletics machine he and his teammates are but minor parts of.
It goes without saying that sports can inspire some interesting promises, from players and coaches guaranteeing victory to fans making statements that hinge on the outcome of a particular game or play (see: tattoos celebrating a team’s triumphs before they’ve even won the game in question). For one Marquette fan, the need for Providence’s Kris Dunn to miss a free throw during Wednesday night’s game (which Marquette won in overtime) inspired him to make a promise that he intended to keep.
Jamey Schilling took the approach of yelling that he’d pay Dunn $10 if he missed the free throw. Sure enough Dunn missed the shot, and Schilling made good on his promise. But with players themselves unable to receive such funds due to NCAA rules, Schilling sent the check to the Providence athletic department.
Schilling’s gesture did not go unnoticed by Marquette either, as the school sent him a gift card to use in the Marquette Spirit Shop.
H/T For The Win