In a game that saw 13 lead changes, the Arizona Wildcats were able to pull out a win over the San Diego State Aztecs with their defense. Arizona won by a score of 61-59 to win the school's second Maui Invitational Championship.
After trailing for the majority of the first half, Arizona closed on an 8-2 run to take a 32-31 lead into the locker room. Stanley Johnson had nine points and seven boards in the first half. The freshman was Arizona's best player all night, finishing with 18 points and nine rebounds.
As expected, the game was all about defense, and that ended up being the difference. Arizona managed to get 22 points off of 14 SDSU turnovers. The Aztecs could only get nine such points on 11 turnovers. Free throws were big too for the Wildcats. 20-of-24 compared to SDSU's 13-of-24. Johnson was 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Coach Miller said after the game that he was proud of the program for taking on the challenge of playing in the early season tournament, and giving the players a great experience in Maui. He also gave Johnson credit for being coachable, and starting to emerge as a go-to guy in tough situations.
Over the last two seasons, San Diego State is 0-3 against Arizona, but 36-3 against the rest of the world. Steve Fisher has created a program that is one of the best in the west, but still hasn't been able to get over that Arizona hurdle.
Early foul trouble: In just over ten minutes of action, Kaleb Tarczewski, T.J. McConnell, Gabe York, Angelo Chol and Skylar Spencer all had two fouls apiece. McConnell then picked up his third with 5:37 left in the first half. York got his third a minute later, resulting in a lot of playing time for Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Elliott Pitts. York picked up his fourth early in the second half. He only ended up playing 11 minutes. Zeus ended up fouling out with 1:47 left, and failed to score any points from the field on the night. He made three free throws, and had one rebound in 27 minutes.
Offensive rebounding: 11 offensive rebounds in the first half by Arizona led to 12 second-chance points. By comparison, SDSU had four such rebounds for five second-chance points in the half. The Aztecs fought back in that category in the second half though, not allowing any Arizona second-chance points after the break.
Stanley Johnson yapping: Stanley's like really good at basketball and stuff, but he's still a freshman, and McConnell was not having any of that extra stuff going on.
Chol Toll: I have to mention Angelo Chol here, since that's all the announcers seemed to know about San Diego State. Chol held his own against Brandon Ashley for the most part. The Chol Toll finished with five points, a rebound, and two blocks in 17 minutes. Ashley struggled to find any kind of groove on the offensive end, getting just six points in over 35 minutes of action.
Point guards of the future: There were times when Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Kevin Zabo were going head-to-head. That's the future of West Coast point guards in the college game right there. Given these teams' history, expect to see those two in some big-time situations against each other in the coming years.