The Arizona Wildcats only took a 15-point, 46-31 lead going into halftime, and it appeared that the former Division II Bryant Bulldogs were making a case for their Division I instatement.
But it was all a farce.
Behind Brendon Lavender's white-hot shooting off the bench, the Wildcats rolled to a 100-60 win in McKale Center on Thursday evening, closing the non-conference season with the highest scoring output since March 7 of 2009. Lavender hit five 3-pointers in a row between the12:02 mark and the 8:27 mark remaining in the game as the lead ballooned from 28 to 43.
Arizona coasted from then on, but the game was established in the Wildcats favor in the first half. The Bulldogs hung around through the first 15 minutes, but the Wildcat veterans were the driving force in the team's eventually blast-furnace of a pace that helped them pull away. Bryant was down just 24-20 with only eight minutes left in the first half before it appeared Arizona's frenetic pace took the wind out of the Bulldogs' sails.
Kyle Fogg led Arizona with 11 points by the half, and Jesse Perry along with Solomon Hill had begun to beat Bryant down in the paint.Perry finished with 16 points and 10 boards while Hill contributed 13 points, seven boards and four assists. With the two forwards winning in the paint and Arizona's players pushing the tempo off defensive rebounds, Bryant's solid shooting in the first 15 minutes -- one that saw then remain within single digits -- diminished.
The Bulldogs finished the game by shooting 44.2 percent and 33 percent from 3-point range, while the Wildcats shot 51.5 percent and hit an astonishing 13-for-23 from deep. Lavender alone went 6-for-8 on the evening from beyond the arc.
The best, most impressive feat for Arizona?
As a team, Arizona had 23 assists, led by Josiah Turner's five assists off the bench. Five Wildcats had three or more assists, and it was the best ball movement of the season. Arizona broke down Bryant's zone defense but did so by more than swinging it about the perimeter. Much of the Wildcats attack came by passing into the meat of the zone or swinging, penetrating and then kicking out to open shooters.
And mistakes weren't an issue despite constant ball movement. Arizona committed just seven turnovers as a team, and along by having a 39-20 rebounding advantage had 14 more shot attempts than Bryant.
By the end of the blowout, even bench-warmers Dondre Wise, Max Wiepking and Robert Arvizu had gotten playing time. Center Alex Jacobson also got off the bench for Sean Miller's crew.
The bench produced two of the more intriguing storylines as Arizona enters Pac-12 Conference play.
Turner's influence on the game, though most of it was on the fastbreak and not in Miller's motion offense, was the most notable outcome on Thursday. Lavender's 18 points in 11 minutes were a sign that Miller will have to give the guard more minutes for, if anything, the sake of having a sure-fire shooter on the floor when the longer jump shots aren't falling for Fogg, Hill or freshman Nick Johnson. At least, that's the thought here.
In the end, the blowout victory acts as a confidence booster for Arizona heading into a New Year's Eve rivalry game against ASU. Theoretically that should be a win, as well, but we all know how the Duel in the Desert can go.