That first loss of the season always leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. At the same time, however, it will give the team extra motivation to work even harder to make sure that that does not happen again. Add the fact that the next game, 12 days later, is against your biggest rivals will just skyrocket everyone's focus and determination. The hard work during the little break paid off immensely as the Arizona Wildcats pulled away early and never looked back as they won 73-49 at the McKale Center.
Defense was the name of the game Sunday as the Cats forced the Sun Devils into 22 turnovers which led to easy points down at the other end. It was not just the turnovers though, it was the fact that everything was contested.
No one on the opposing team got easy looks on a constant basis and Sean Miller will have to be extremely pleased with that. They held ASU to just 32.6% shooting as the school from the north made just 14 (yes, you read that right) of their 43 attempts from the field. Kaleb Tarczewski, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, T.J. McConnell and Stanley Johnson all finished with one steal while Zeus, RHJ, and TJ also finished with a block a piece.
Early on in the game, it was close. Roosevelt Scott made a layup to put the visitors up by a score of 2-0. Stanley Johnson broke the 7-7 deadlock to push Arizona's lead to 9-7 with just under 16 minutes left to go in the half.
But it was all over from then on in as Rondae made all three free throws after he was fouled from behind the arc a couple of minutes later which pushed the lead to 15-7. Then Arizona went on a 12-1 run before ASU finally made another basket five minutes after their previous one (both by Scott).
Parker Jackson-Cartwright got extended minutes and really showed what he is capable of. The little, 5-foot-10, 160 lb. point guard, zoomed up and down the court for 16 minutes finishing with just two points and one assist. However, it was the way he moved the ball around the court that made it easier for Arizona to make an extra pass to the open guy for a three or an easy two down low. He might not have stood out on the box score. but the way he went about his business tonight will certainly give him more and more playing time down the road.
It's scary when a 6' 9" forward is so agile and athletic around the basket and that is exactly what Brandon Ashley did tonight. Add that with his ability to hit the three ball (he made three out of four) and he will surely give PAC-12 coaches nightmares.
Finally, Dusan Ristic was really impressive tonight. It seemed as if the freshman was always at the right place at the right time and was able to clean up any misses as he finished the game with nine points and grabbed five boards.
Next week, Arizona travels to Oregon as it faces the Ducks on Thursday and the Beavers on Sunday.