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.