It’s becoming clear that Kobi Simmons likes the spotlight.
Lucky for Arizona fans, the lights were on bright on Saturday afternoon when the Arizona Wildcats and UCLA Bruins met up in Pauley Pavilion. Simmons, with his fondness for the bright lights, put up an aggressive 20 points, six rebounds and five assists, leading the Wildcats to a 96-85 win.
This was such an entertaining game, featuring the team with the best offense in the country. Though that team was UCLA entering Saturday’s contest, it was Arizona that looked like the best offense in the nation throughout the game. Six Wildcats finished in double figures and they shot 50% as a team, with nine made threes.
Simmons led the way with his 20, including two first half three pointers, to clearly send the message that Arizona was ready, willing and able to engage in a shootout with the high-scoring Bruins.
The 6’5” freshman was aggressive all game. He led Arizona in shot attempts with 14 while Lauri Markkanen, Kadeem Allen, and the returning Allonzo Trier all had ten.
There’s a certain element of chaos to Simmons’ game. His ball handling and speed can lead to being out of control at times. But when he’s able to create space between himself and his defender, his moves to the rim are smooth and result in an easy bucket or a smart kick-out to an open shooter.
His aggression on Saturday led to a lot of one-on-one shot attempts. Those may not be ideal but he made more than one of those count, including a mean crossover that left Bryce Alford going the wrong direction as Simmons nailed a mid-range jumper to put Arizona up 14 a few minutes into the second half.
Simmons gave Alford a look after that shot and was served up with a technical foul.
A few weeks ago, Kobi Simmons struggled. Sean Miller spoke about Simmons losing his confidence after the Utah and Colorado home games.
If that stare that Simmons shot over to Alford indicated one thing it’s that there’s no question that Simmons’ confidence is back and was in full force against UCLA.
That confidence showed throughout the entire team, as they landed a huge, marquee victory. The Bruins entered the game as a prospective number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona hung 96 on them and beat them on their home floor. Now Arizona is due for the same praise UCLA has been getting for months.
If Kobi’s confidence is at its highest when he’s got the national spotlight on him, maybe this Freshman, and this team, is built perfectly for March.