Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. After watching the Arizona Wildcats pull off a 56-43 win against the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto on Saturday, all the mid-game cringing from Wildcat nation was probably well worth it.
Sean Miller's team shot 38.3 percent from the field and held the Cardinal to 24.6 percent shooting. Improving to 16-8 (7-4 Pac-12) on the season, Arizona used a late game push to out-execute Stanford despite dealing with obvious adversity and poor shooting.
With Kevin Parrom out for the season and Jordin Mayes dealing with his own foot injury, Miller only went seven deep in the rotation. Worsening the troubles was Solomon Hill finding himself in foul trouble. Going seven players deep and playing the offense-defense substitution game for much of the second half, Miller's coaching came through. By that, I mean both in his Xs and Os, and in his motivational tactics.
The play of Arizona's freshmen came through, and it was a necessity for the Wildcats to win their second straight and sweep the Bay Area schools.
Angelo Chol, with his second strong performance in a row, blocked four shots, and Josiah Turner ripped the Cardinal three times. The duo acted as the epitome of how Miller's coaching develops within his teams as seasons reach the end of the regular season.
Last year, that led to a surge into the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments. This year, it might just be enough just to get there.
A diving steal by Turner and perfectly executed bounce pass while sitting on the ground led to a Nick Johnson dunk, and it capped a late push by Arizona to extend its lead going into the final minute.
And as the Wildcats did often last season, defined roles led to a victory despite no player having a dominant performance.
Kyle Fogg scored 14 to lead Arizona, Hill contributed 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals, and Johnson and Jesse Perry each hit double-figure scoring. Brendon Lavender hit two three-pointers off the bench -- he and Chol were the only bench players to see playing time -- the second of which pushed a five-point UA lead to eight.
Three things to note
- Josiah Turner keeps getting better and better. A spin move on a drive in the second half was met by a help defender at the rim, but Turner's feel for the game shined brightly as he switched to his left hand to get the shot off before the defender had time to react. As usual, he was consistently in the passing lanes, but showed the ability to recover when he missed. His hounding man-to-man defense caused trouble in the Stanford backcourt and kept the Cardinal from getting into any sort of an offensive rhythm.
- Despite Hill's foul trouble and the usual lack of size inside, Arizona did it's fair share of controlling the paint. With so many misses, though, it wasn't necessarily a good sign they out-rebounded Stanford by one. The Cardinal had 15 offensive boards, but seven blocked shots by UA helped ease second-chance points.
- Arizona's free throw struggles continued on Saturday, as the Wildcats went 15-for-25 at the foul line. On the other hand, it goes to show that Arizona dominated the game to a bigger degree than the final 13-point deficit might have showed.