Dominating defense pushes Wildcats past Clemson in 63-47 victory

TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 10: Nick Johnson #13 of the Arizona Wildcats slam dunks the ball against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the college basketball game at McKale Center on December 10, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In his postgame television interview, Sean Miller credited Arizona Wildcats' guard Kyle Fogg for leading a hard-nosed defensive effort as UA dropped the Clemson Tigers 63-47 in McKale Center on Saturday afternoon.

It was the second straight game that the Wildcats' backcourt defense made their opponents look bad. Clemson's starting backcourt of Tanner Smith and Andre Young combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the floor, and Arizona held the Tigers to 31.7 percent shooting over the course of the game.

The Wildcats never trailed, and they jumped out to a quick lead with a starting lineup of Jordin Mayes, Nick Johnson, Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry.

Johnson led Arizona with 14 points, six of which came off SportsCenter worthy dunks. The biggest was from a no-look feed from Hill to a cutting Johnson, who slid backdoor along the right baseline and tomahawk jammed it over the outstretched arms of 7-foot-2 center Catalin Baciu.

Hill himself had another all-around strong performance.

The junior forward scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dropped six dimes with his smarts and aggressiveness that's become routine this season. Just as Arizona's double-digit lead dissolved to seven at 49-42 with less than five minutes to play, Hill took over.

He bullied his way into the paint for two shots from inside four feet and a Josiah Turner steal turned into a Johnson dunk as the Wildcats finished the Tigers off with a 14-5 run in the final 4:03.

From the beginning, it was clear Miller wanted one thing -- for his Wildcats to run Clemson into the ground. Arizona pushed the tempo with its small lineup, and the Tigers poor shooting helped UA's cause.

Turner returned from suspension with an erratic effort. He was quick to jump on cross-court passes and was credited with two steals, but he turned the ball over five times while scoring six points and grabbing five boards.

Notables

  • Miller said he wanted to get Jordin Mayes into a groove, and starting the sophomore point guard helped. Mayes scored seven points and played with more aggression than we've seen from him in the past four games.
  • Johnson leading in the scoring category for the Wildcats came efficiently as it could. He scored on 7-for-9 shooting and never took a bad shot. Then again, not many shots are bad when most of them are at the rim. The over/under for how many plays appear on SportsCenter tonight? Probably 2.
  • The Wildcats shot 51 percent, and it's safe to say it was, overall, their best game of the year, perhaps even better than the Florida loss that saw sloppy offense and a lot of turnovers.
  • The win shouldn't be taken out of context. Though the Tigers are an ACC team, they're one of the worst offensive teams in the country. That's due to their refusal to get into the paint -- that translated into bad jumpers and only five total free throws taken.
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