It's obvious enough at this point the Arizona Wildcats aren't offensive juggernauts. A roster constructed to be a dominant defensive group is certainly that, but the other side of the coin is that there are limits to the Arizona offense. The Wildcats probably understand that, so as many negative takeaways as there were in a 66-63 overtime win against No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs, there's also this.
Sean Miller's team knows how to win, and it has done so in close games.
Arizona led by three points with seconds remaining in overtime, but Byron Wesley caught a tipped offensive rebound atop the three-point arc with seconds left. Elliott Pitts, who appeared to go straight up, was called for a questionable foul with Wesley leaning into him, but Wesley missed all three of the ensuing free throws as the Wildcats extended their home winning streak to 26 games.
Arizona allowed just one field goal in the final 9:05 of the game, and that was a desperate, contested three by guard Kevin Pangos over Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Gonzaga led 33-29 four minutes into the second half when the game reached the point of testiness. Domantas Sabonis, the son of former NBA center Arvydas Sabonis, grabbed a rebound behind Ashley's back and pulled down the Arizona forward on what was called a jump ball.
It woke Arizona up. Point guard T.J. McConnell, who struggled in many facets, ripped Pangos on the ensuing inbound pass after the timeout and scored on a layup. That was the turning point for Arizona's point guard, who remained assist-less well into the second half.
When McConnell sat in the middle of the second half, Arizona's offense even picked up with Parker Jackson-Cartwright pushing the ball off misses or makes. But McConnell would have his impact later on. He scored two Arizona buckets in overtime and did his part for a defense that held the Bulldogs to 39.7 percent shooting on the afternoon. Of course, Arizona wouldn't have been in position to be forced into a second overtime late had McConnell not gone 2-for-4 from the foul stripe in the overtime.
Still, the Wildcats survived.
Arizona trailed by as many as six and never led from the eight-minute mark in the first half through 32 seconds into overtime. The Wildcats made a push with eight minutes left, when freshman Stanley Johnson stole the ball from Przemek Karnowski and hit an open three out of a post pass from Tarczewski that made it a 52-50 Zags lead.
Gonzaga extended the lead back out to six points soon after, but Brandon Ashley scored once on a secondary break and twice on mid-range jumpers, and Arizona's defense clamped down to tie it at 60 with 1:14 left.
Then it was on to overtime, where the Wildcats looked plenty comfortable grinding out their eighth win of the year.
Still no transition offense: A few times, Arizona got into transition. That's what saw UA beat Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament this past March, but as it's been all year against power conference teams, it was rare for Arizona -- McConnell's group especially -- to get easy buckets off out early offense. The Wildcats may continue to struggle getting into transition offense, but the good news is they're learning how to play in tight games. If the former comes around as the season progresses, it'll mean good things.
The call of the game: Sean Miller found Gonzaga attacking Arizona in the pick-and-roll, using Kyle Wiltjer to pop for open jumper as Arizona failed to recover. The Wildcats made a key change, switching screens when they could and accepting they might get a power forward posting up Hollis-Jefferson or Johnson. That helped keep Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. in front of them. Pangos went 3-for-10 and finished with eight points, six dimes and four turnovers. Hollis-Jefferson might have even seen more time on Pangos than McConnell, who was moved onto Bell Jr. to keep the slashing guard out of the paint.
Pitts steps up: His box score didn't do his performance justice. While Gabe York was caught sleeping on defense multiple times -- he was yanked early in both halves -- Pitts earned crunchtime minutes because of his defense. On the final play of regulation with seconds remaining, Pitts guarded the inbound pass but alertly closed out on Wiltjer, who caught the inbound in the corner and launched a three that would have won it.
Box score hero: Ashley led Arizona with 14 points and hit both of his threes, plus two huge midrange jumpers late in the second half as the Wildcats closed a small deficit.