BERKELEY, Calif. — Deandre Ayton had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 14 Arizona overcame a slow, sloppy start to beat California 79-58 on Wednesday night.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 14 points with three 3-pointers during a decisive stretch spanning halftime as the Wildcats won their third straight since losing at Colorado on Jan. 6.
Dylan Smith made all four of his 3s and added 14 points and Allonzo Trier scored 15 as Arizona (15-4, 5-1 Pac-12) played without sophomore guard Rawle Alkins, held out as a precaution with what the school said was mild right foot soreness.
Justice Sueing scored 19 points to lead Cal (7-12, 1-5) but missed all six of his 3-point attempts for the cold-shooting Golden Bears, held to 35.3 percent and outrebounded 36-22. Don Coleman had 11 points but shot just 3 of 13.
Ayton made 9 of 11 shots and Arizona shot 62 percent, going 11 for 19 from deep.
Arizona connected on six straight 3-pointers from the 9:20 mark until 2:32 left before halftime to take control, three by Parker Jackson-Cartwright, then seven in all spanning halftime. Cal got within single digits, down by nine, for all of 17 seconds in the second half.
The Wildcats went four possessions until getting their first shot off while committing three quick turnovers and falling behind 6-0. They had turnovers on six of their initial nine possessions and 21 overall but still wound up shooting 70 percent in the opening half.
Arizona won its fourth straight in the series.
Arizona: The Pac-12’s top team from the free throw line, the Wildcats followed up a 34-of-37 showing at the line against Oregon last Saturday — the program’s first time at 90 percent or higher with at least 35 attempts since going 38 of 40 (.950) vs. Washington on Jan. 27, 2005, a span of 454 games — by shooting just 13 free throws and making six. Arizona came in shooting 85.3 percent at the line. … The Wildcats are 18-11 in Pac-12 road games played in the state of California under Sean Miller since 2009. Miller also is 12-4 vs. Cal.
Cal: Kingsley Okoroh, a 7-foot-1 center, scored 10 points to post his first game in double figures scoring since Nov. 16 against Wofford. … Cal has beaten ranked Arizona teams 11 times, including No. 1 four years ago at Haas Pavilion. While the Bears averaged 54.5 points over their recent road trip to Washington and Washington State last weekend, they hurt their chances with a 1-for-13 shooting performance from 3-point range but made 21 of 30 free throws.
Arizona: At Stanford on Saturday afternoon.
Cal: Hosts Arizona State on Saturday night.
Arizona’s Sean Miller offers high praise for point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright
Arizona senior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright has been viewed as a weak link for the Wildcats as they attempt to chase a national championship this season.
The 5-foot-11 Jackson-Cartwright hasn’t put up gaudy numbers during his time in Tucson, but Arizona head coach Sean Miller believes that his floor general is doing a great job with the little things when it comes to running a team. Jackson-Cartwright has had an up-and-down career at Arizona — backing up T.J. McConnell then splitting time with Kadeem Allen the past few seasons — but he’s been playing well in the role that Miller wants him to play.
Speaking with Arizona media earlier this week, including Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, Miller mentioned Jackson-Cartwright’s solid assist-to-turnover ratio as well as his ability to knock down open threes.
“Parker has done a real good job in a quiet way,” Miller said to Pascoe. “He doesn’t get a lot of credit because he’s not a high scorer but you have to remember the team that he’s playing on — in some ways he’s the perfect point guard for this team.”
Miller specifically cited how Jackson-Cartwright has been even better since the return of sophomore Rawle Alkins, as he doesn’t have to look to score as often with another weapon on the floor.
“With Rawle back, we have two wings who can score. We have a good low-post game. What Parker does is what a lot of coaches would love their point guard to do. He sits on a 3-1 assist-turnover ratio. Last game he was 6-1. And he’s shooting high percentage from 3,” Miller said. “A lot like [Utah point guard Justin] Bibbins, you can’t leave Parker alone. And as you decide what to do – trapping, double teaming our post guys, or trying to crowd the court against Rawle or Allonzo, Parker is continuously in position to take 3s and make those and he’s done a great job until now of doing that and I expect him to continue to shoot the ball well.”
Perhaps Jackson-Cartwright hasn’t lived up to his lofty recruiting ranking coming out of high school, but he’s been a factor when Arizona was successful the past two seasons. After recovering from a high ankle sprain last season, Jackson-Cartwright had some flashes of strong play. During an eight-game stretch from Feb. 16 to March 11, Jackson-Cartwright went 17-for-25 from three-point range as the Wildcats went 7-1 to close out the season with a Pac-12 Tournament title before the NCAA tournament.
Then in the NCAA tournament, Jackson-Cartwright struggled on some occasions, with subpar outings against Saint Mary’s and in the loss to Xavier.
If Arizona is to win the national championship this season, they’re going to need Jackson-Cartwright to knock down open threes and continue to take care of the ball as he’s done in recent games. Jackson-Cartwright hasn’t scored in double-figures in a month and Arizona is riding an eight-game winning streak.
Although Jackson-Cartwright might not be as talented as some of the title-winning floor generals of the past few seasons (Joel Berry, Ryan Arcidiacono, Tyus Jones), his supporting cast is loaded. Miller expressed his belief that Jackson-Cartwright is perfect for this team. Now it’s on Jackson-Cartwright to continue to do the little things while getting guys like Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier the ball.
Pac-12 Conference Reset: How many teams go dancing?
College basketball’s non-conference season is finally coming to a close.
To help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.
Who has been the best player in the biggest leagues?
Who is on track to get an NCAA tournament bid?
What have we learned about the conference hierarchy, and what is left for us to figure out?
We break it all down here.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Pac-12.
MIDSEASON PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tra Holder, Arizona State
Having improved statistically in each of his first three seasons at Arizona State, Holder has made another major leap forward as a senior. Averaging 21.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, Holder is doing this while shooting 46.7 percent from the field, 45.8 percent from three and 83.1 percent from the foul line. It’s one thing to be given the green light to make plays, as is the case for Arizona State’s guards under head coach Bobby Hurley. It’s another to do so at a high level and help lead a team through non-conference play undefeated.
THE ALL PAC-12 FIRST TEAM
TRA HOLDER, ARIZONA STATE
ALLONZO TRIER, ARIZONA: For all the critiques of Trier following last season’s Sweet 16 exit, he’s been incredibly efficient as a junior. Trier’s averaging 21.2 points per game while shooting 56.2 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from beyond the arc.
AARON HOLIDAY, UCLA: This pick was a tough one, because Arizona State’s Shannon Evans II has a very good argument as well. However Holiday’s also performed well thus far, averaging 17.6 points, 5.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game.
DEANDRE AYTON, ARIZONA: To say that Ayton may be the toughest individual matchup in the Pac-12 would be a conservative statement. The 7-foot-1 freshman is averaging 19.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game while shooting 61.7 percent from the field.
REID TRAVIS, STANFORD: While the Cardinal have struggled thus far,
going 6-7 in non-conference play, Travis has been one of the Pac-12’s most productive front court players. The redshirt junior is averaging 21.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and he’s shooting 52.7 percent from the field in doing so.
NCAA:Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Oregon
NIT: Utah, Washington
OTHER/NO POSTSEASON:Colorado, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington State, California
THREE THINGS WE’VE LEARNED
1. OFF-COURT ISSUES CHANGED THE EQUATION FOR MULTIPLE SCHOOLS: One had to have the feeling that this would be an interesting season in the Pac-12 dating back to late-September, as the still-ongoing FBI investigation saw two teams have assistant coaches arrested and later indicted (Arizona’s Emanuel Richardson and USC’s Tony Bland). Add in UCLA losing three freshmen due to their decision to shoplift while in China, and non-conference play has been an adventure to say the least.
While Arizona hasn’t lost a player due to the FBI investigation USC has, as versatile sophomore guard DeAnthony Melton continues to sit as the school looks into things. And UCLA’s rotation is three players lighter as Cody Riley and Jalen Hill will sit out the entire season and LiAngelo Ball will be playing professionally in Lithuania. For all this turmoil recent results suggest that each team should be OK, however. Arizona has won seven straight, USC won the Diamond Head Classic and UCLA picked up a win over Kentucky. But merely being “OK” may not equal making a deep run in March, which all three programs have the goal of doing.
2. CONSIDERED A TOURNAMENT TEAM BEFORE THE SEASON STARTED, ARIZONA STATE MAY BE EVEN MORE THAN THAT: There are only three undefeated teams in college basketball, and to the surprise of many the Sun Devils are in that class (Villanova and TCU being the others). Given the talent and experience back on the perimeter in Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II and Kodi Justice, to see Bobby Hurley’s team as an NCAA tournament squad was not far-fetched. But thanks to the combination of holdovers and newcomers, the Sun Devils have the look of a team that can play deep into March.
Romello White has been an impact addition after sitting out last season, and the same can be said of fellow forward De’Quon Lake. Those two combined to average 24.2 points and 14.9 rebounds per game in non-conference play, and while his numbers may not jump off the page Vitaliy Shibel’s contributions should not be overlooked, either. Adding Mickey Mitchell — and eventually Kimani Lawrence — improves Arizona State’s front court depth. Lastly, we cannot forget to note the impact that freshman Remy Martin’s had on the perimeter. The energetic newcomer can be an absolute pest on the perimeter defensively, and he’s also averaging 9.9 points per game. If they can improve defensively and on the boards, Arizona State should (at minimum) contend in the Pac-12.
3. THERE’S CLEAR SEPARATION IN THE CONFERENCE PECKING ORDER: While there have been some surprising results produced by teams expected to finish in the bottom half of the conference, most notably Washington’s win over Kansas and Washington State winning the Wooden Legacy, there have also been a host of losses that would give one pause when considering whether or not to believe in those teams. As a result, entering conference play it appears as if there are five surefire NCAA tournament teams with the rest either being questionable or worse.
Washington State followed up the Wooden Legacy with losses to UC Davis, Idaho and UTEP, Oregon State has losses to Long Beach State and Kent State on its ledger, Colorado’s lost to Colorado State and San Diego, and both California and Stanford begin league play below .500. Washington may have the best shot of any of those teams of making a run at the NCAA tournament bubble, as none of its three losses (Providence, Virginia Tech and Gonzaga) would be considered “bad.” But the pickings are slim, which in addition to hurting the bottom of the Pac-12 could hurt bubble teams in search of quality wins in the months of February and March.
THREE STORYLINES TO FOLLOW
1. ARIZONA STATE’S STAYING POWER: The Sun Devils’ 12-0 start to the season has certainly been impressive, with wins over Kansas and Xavier being the headliners. But for a program that last reached the NCAA tournament in 2014, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Arizona State will be able to sustain this run of form and at the very least contend in the Pac-12. As noted above there is some work to be done on the defensive end of the floor, as Arizona State is ranked 122nd in adjusted defensive efficiency per kenpom.com.
The biggest reason for those struggles: defensive rebounding, as Arizona State is rebounding just 68.6 percent of its opponents’ missed shots. That figure ranks 11th in the Pac-12, with Washington (67.4) being the only team that’s been worse. Mickey Mitchell, who has a personal defensive rebounding percentage of 23.1 in his limited time on the floor, should help in this regard. Addressing the rebounding issue could be the difference between going to the NCAA tournament and simply winning a game or playing deep into the month of March.
2. WILL DE’ANTHONY MELTON BE ALLOWED TO PLAY?: USC managed to rebound from its overtime loss to Princeton by winning the Diamond Head Classic, with tournament MVP Bennie Boatwright and sophomore guard Jonah Mathews both looking healthier after having been hampered by injuries prior to the Trojans’ trip to Hawaii. But this is a team that still misses the contributions of Melton, a versatile guard who can have an impact for this team on both ends of the court.
Defensively, Melton has both the size and athleticism to defend multiple positions on the perimeter. Offensively, he can operate with or without the basketball in his hands. Simply put, Melton can be a “mixing agent” for a team that really doesn’t have that kind of player at this point in time despite its wealth of talent. Will USC ultimately clear Melton to return to the court? And if that happens, how prepared will Melton be to have an impact once on the floor? USC has the tools to contend in the Pac-12 without Melton, but his return would certainly improve their chances of winning the league.
3. CAN OREGON INSERT ITSELF INTO THE CONFERENCE CONVERSATION?: Given the fact that Oregon lost six of its top seven scorers from last season’s Final Four team, it should come as no surprise that the current group of Ducks needed some time to adjust not only to Dana Altman’s system but to each other as well. Oregon’s field goal and three-point percentages are about where they were a season ago, with this year’s group shooting 47.9 percent from the field (48.0 last season) and 37.7 percent from three (38.0).
After going through a stretch in which it lost three of four games, Oregon has won five straight to wrap up non-conference play. While the win at Fresno State is the only result that will make an impression from an NCAA profile standpoint, it’s important to note that was a game the Ducks trailed by 12 early in the second half. Payton Pritchard has taken a step forward as a sophomore, and newcomers such as Elijah Brown and Troy Brown have looked more comfortable of late. There’s also Kenny Wooten, who’s elicited comparisons to Jordan Bell with his production defensively (3.2 bpg) while also being an effective finisher around the basket.
As part of the quintet of teams in the league most likely to go dancing, can Oregon be a Pac-12 title contender? If they continue to grow together, it’s certainly possible.
1. ARIZONA WINS THE PAC-12 OUTRIGHT: The Wildcats did not play well at the Battle 4 Atlantis, but it’s important to remember that Rawle Alkins was out with a broken foot. Since the trip to the Bahamas the Wildcats have won seven straight, the last four with Alkins in the lineup. His return gives Arizona a power wing who can more than supplement what Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton bring to the table. And the supporting cast, most notably Dusan Ristic, has become more comfortable with their respective roles of late.
That being said, the offense isn’t the concern for Sean Miller which is a bit of a departure from seasons past. It’s the defense, partially a byproduct of have two players who are most effective at the center position (Ayton and Ristic) on the court at the same time for significant stretches of time. They’ve become more comfortable with each other defensively, which will be a key moving forward. If that continues to happen and Arizona gets better at defending the three, they’ve got the talent needed to win the Pac-12 title outright. And the prediction here is that this will happen.
2. WASHINGTON JUST MISSES OUT ON AN NCAA BID: There wasn’t much expected of the Huskies in the first season of Mike Hopkins’ tenure as head coach, but the Huskies have been a positive surprise in non-conference play. Of course there’s the win over Kansas in Kansas City, one of the league’s most impressive non-conference victories. And even though the Huskies had some close calls, none of their losses were particularly damaging. For that reason Washington enters conference play in better shape to potentially earn an NCAA bid than many anticipated back in October.
That all being said, even with the play of veterans such as Noah Dickerson, David Crisp and Mathysse Thybulle and freshman Jaylen Nowell, Washington’s struggles on the defensive end of the floor will be why this team lands in the NIT. Opponents are averaging nearly 76 points per game, and Washington is ranked in the two hundreds nationally in both effective field goal percentage defense (52.3; 223rd) and defensive rebounding percentage (67.4; 287th). Washington has the talent to be a middle of the pack team in the Pac-12, but if they’re to do what few expect and reach the NCAA tournament this team has to get better defensively.
3. SOMEONE FROM A TEAM IN THE BOTTOM HALF OF THE LEAGUE CONTENDS FOR PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The pick for the Pac-12’s top played in non-conference play here is Arizona State’s Tra Holder, and one can find a host of worthy contenders from other top teams in the conference. Shannon Evans II, Allonzo Trier, DeAndre Ayton and Aaron Holiday are just some of the contenders from teams that at the very least should hear their names called on Selection Sunday.
While those are the teams that tend to produce Player of the Year winners, with voters generally preferring to reward team success, there are some options on teams that may not finish in the top half of the conference worth considering as well. Stanford’s Reid Travis and Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle (18.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.2 apg) are two possibilities, and with the conference going with a 10-member first team at season’s end at bare minimum both should land on that list.
Balanced effort pushes Arizona past No. 7 Texas A&M
Having struggled in non-conference play, most notably going 0-3 at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Arizona needed a quality win for its non-conference profile. The Wildcats picked up that win Tuesday night, as they beat seventh-ranked Texas A&M 67-64 at the Valley of the Sun Shootout in Phoenix. DeAndre Ayton, Brandon Randolph, Dusan Ristic and Dylan Smith led the way offensively for the Wildcats, scoring 13 points apiece, with Ayton adding ten rebounds.
Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis led all scorers with 21, but it wasn’t enough as the Aggies suffered their first loss of the season. Here are three takeaways from Arizona’s win over Texas A&M.
1. Arizona won despite an off night from Allonzo Trier.
The junior guard entered Tuesday’s game averaging 23.9 points per game, shooting 57.1 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three and 78.0 percent from the foul line. Texas A&M managed to neutralize Trier, as he was just 2-for-7 from the field and finished the night with seven points to go along with three rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. Given Arizona’s struggles to get consistent offense from players other than Trier or Ayton in games against quality competition, the Wildcats finding a way to win despite the team’s leading scorer having an off night is a positive development.
In addition to Smith, who scored in double figures for the first time as a Wildcat, Randolph reached double figures for the third time in the last four games. Randolph, a part of Arizona’s highly regarded recruiting class, scored a total of six points in Arizona’s first four games. There’s still a lot to be improved upon, but grinding out a win despite Trier going cold is a positive for the Wildcats.
2. Tyler Davis may not be as high on draft boards as Robert Williams III, but he’s a tough cover for just about any front court.
Tuesday’s matchup between Williams and DeAndre Ayton was the one many NBA Draft types were looking forward to, as both have the potential to be lottery picks in June. But there’s something to be said for a veteran big man as well, with Tyler Davis being the one player Arizona did not seem to have an answer for defensively. Davis made nine of his 12 field goal attempts, doing much of his work on the low block.
Whether it was Ayton, Dusan Ristic or any other big man, Arizona could not do much to put Davis in situations where he would struggle to get a quality look at the basket. With Williams still being a work in progress when it comes to his offensive skill set, having a big man who can consistently produce offense on the low block will certainly help Texas A&M in its quest to win the SEC.
3. Arizona needs to be a bit more judicious with its shot selection.
Entering Tuesday’s game 31.9 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, a mark that ranked 280th in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Against Texas A&M the Wildcats attempted 22 three-pointers, making seven, with nearly 47 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. And outside of Dylan Smith, who made all three of his three-pointers, Arizona combined to shoot 4-for-19 from three.
Texas A&M’s front court can make it difficult on opposing teams when it comes to finding quality looks around the basket, but there were also instances in which Arizona settled for perimeter shots. The eventual return of Rawle Alkins should help with this, but there’s also no excuse for six of Allonzo Trier’s seven shot attempts being three-pointers.
If Arizona is to reach the expectations set for them before the season began, they’ve got room to grow on both ends of the floor. That being said, building on Saturday’s win over UNLV with this quality result should help the Wildcats moving forward.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Sean Miller sat down after his team shot 60 percent in a 35-point win and talked about what was missing.
For nearly 25 minutes, the Arizona coach kept hitting the same point: Effort, particularly on the defensive end.
The Wildcats don’t have it, at least consistently, and it’s gnawing at Miller, even after a 91-56 rout over Long Beach State on Wednesday night.
“We really struggled to play with great effort and I don’t think we’re going to be very successful until that’s fixed,” Miller said. “We’re a lifeless group a lot of times.”
Arizona (4-3) dropped out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2012 following a 0-for-3 trip to the Bahamas. The Wildcats looked much more comfortable back at the McKale Center, shooting 60 percent and making 12 of 22 from 3-point range to win their 44th straight non-conference home game. Allonzo Trier scored 15 points, Deandre Ayton added 13 and six players scored in double figures.
Defensively, they were not as Miller had hoped, particularly after harping on it in practice.
“Disappointed just watching our team where we’re at,” he said. “We’ve had our moments over the last six, seven years where you watch a group, but I don’t know if I’ve seen a group that can’t bring it, can’t work, can’t really fight defensively. Man, is it disappointing.”
Long Beach State coach Dan Monson likes to schedule tough opponents to build the 49ers’ RPI and this season has been no different.
The 49ers (3-5) have already faced Oregon State, West Virginia, Missouri, and Nebraska, with a game against No. 3 Michigan State still to come.
Long Beach State won one of those games — against Oregon State on Nov. 24 — but was never really in it against the big, athletic Wildcats, falling into a 23-point hole in the first half on the way to a blowout loss.
Bryan Alberts led the 49ers with 12 points.
“We were out-manned,” Monson said. “It was not smart scheduling on my part because this is our sixth game on the road in 13 days.”
Arizona needed a bounce back from a lost week in the Bahamas. The Wildcats went into the Battle 4 Atlantis undefeated and ranked No. 2. They came home winless in three games and dropped all the way out of the rankings on Monday, becoming the first team since Louisville in 1986 to drop out of the AP Top 25 from the No. 2 spot.
The big issue: Defense.
Arizona allowed 89 points twice in the three games in the Bahamas and is allowing nearly 75 points per game, high numbers for a Sean Miller-coached team.
The Wildcats were good defensively back at home, contesting shots and jumping into passing lanes while holding the 49ers to 10-of-27 shooting in the first half.
On offense, the Wildcats gave Long Beach State a heavy dose of Ayton early, repeatedly feeding it to the 7-foot-1, 260-pound freshman in the high and low post. Ayton scored six quick points and was good at recognizing double teams, working the ball out to open shooters.
Ayton had 10 points and eight rebounds by halftime, helping Arizona to a 42-24 lead.
The 49ers used a short run to cut Arizona’s lead to 13 early in the second half, but the Wildcats ran away with a series of fast breaks and 3-pointers.
“We got it down to 13, but turned it over three straight times,” Monson said. “We just have to stay together and battle a little bit more as we grow as a team.”
Long Beach State shoots 71 percent from the free-throw line, but went 8 for 17 against Arizona. … The Wildcats had a 38-24 advantage in the paint and nine more rebounds. … The 49ers had 19 turnovers that led to 27 points for Arizona. … Parker Jackson-Cartwright ran Arizona’s offense efficiently, as usual, finishing with 12 points, five assists and one turnover.
Long Beach State was overmatched by the oversized Wildcats, but these tough early-season tests should help them once the Big West season rolls around.
Though the opponent was from a small conference, Arizona appears to be headed back in the right direction on offense. Defensively, they have a lot of room for improvement, according to their coach.
Arizona five-star point guard commit Jahvon Quinerly has hired an attorney for his family but they have not been contacted by any federal authorities after the FBI investigation into college basketball began a few weeks ago.
One of four college coaches arrested by the FBI included Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson. Although not directly named in FBI documents, Quinerly is believed to “Player-5” in the probe. The documents allege that Richardson paid Player-5 a $15,000 bribe who, “verbally committed to attending” (Arizona) “on or about August 9, 2017,”
When asked by reporters Saturday at the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Mini-Camp if he had accepted money, Quinerly said, “I have no comment.”
According to a report by ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, Quinerly and his family have hired Alan Milstein, who is notable for representing former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett when he tried to fight the NFL’s age minimum in 2004.