It's back to the old days, the days when the Arizona Wildcats would double an opponent up -- by scoring 100 points.
The 100-50 victory to open the NIT Season Tip-Off against an expectedly bad Fairleigh Dickinson team came just as you'd expect. There was a good five minutes of sleepiness on Monday, a hangover coming from a big win at San Diego State, before an awakening. But minutes after the starters took the floor, it was the bench that made all the difference.
Sean Miller's team isn't all that deep. But what's on the bench is damn good.
Gabe York led the Wildcats with 20 easy points. He hit 8-of-11 shots either with his silky jumper or smooth slashing to the hoop. And York arguably wasn't the best reserve in McKale Center on Monday. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson came off the bench, and his insertion marked the turning point. He wasted no time slashing to the hoop with a recklessness and finished on a swooping And 1 layup, using his length against any contact he absorbed. He chased after several offensive rebounds and soon was slamming home a pass from T.J. McConnell in transition.
The Wildcats held the Knights to 31 percent shooting, and they got the misses to the tune of a 54-25 rebounding advantage. But Arizona also grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, ridiculous considering they shot a healthy 54.5 percent overall. To put that in perspective, the Wildcats only missed 31 field goals -- to be fair they also could have grabbed some of 10 missed free throws.
McConnell recorded nine assists while only taking three shots. He is, indeed, the anti-Mark Lyons.
Nick Johnson worked through an ugly first few minutes to score 16. The defensive maestro added two steals and three blocks. Kaleb Tarczewski played his best game of the year -- albeit against a completely outmatched FDU frontline. The big man scored 10 points, grabbed eight boards and had three blocks.
Aaron Gordon had his worst game of the year. And the thing about these talented Wildcats was that it didn't matter in the outcome. The freshman still finished with a 10-10 double-double.
Arizona had 19 assists to five turnovers. Call that the McConnell factor.
The theme the 50-point win?
Any weaknesses were disproved, if not for one game against an inferior opponent. Between the bench concerns entering the season -- I had those, maybe you didn't -- and the shooting issues that were seemingly answered by UA hitting 10-of-19 triples -- ditto -- there's not much to complain about.
Now, the Wildcats will face much stiffer competition. The Rhode Island Rams might be on edge a bit more than Arizona coming off a 66-63 battle against Division II Metro State.
Nonetheless, Arizona looks every bit a top-5 team as the Associated Press and coaches have tabbed them to be.
Who: Rhode Island vs. Arizona
What: NIT Season Tip-Off second round
Where: McKale Center
When: Tuesday, 9 p.m. MST