Tonight's game did not start the way any of us could have predicted. The 12th-ranked Arizona Wildcats marched on to the floor, looking to win their 40th straight game at McKale Center, taking on an extremely young mid-major Bradley Braves team, with a new head coach.
Then, we found out that Bradley came to play. They worked to find open shots throughout the first half and made hustle plays left and right. Most of Arizona's first half points came off sheer physicality, driving to the basket and forcing Bradley to foul. Arizona led at the half, 39-33, but things were uneasy on both sides of the ball for Arizona.
Then the second half happened. The 'Cats started the second half with a different starting five, replacing Kadeem Allen and Mark Tollefsen with Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Elliott Pitts. They combined for 9 assists in the second half and 13 overall. Arizona dropped 51 points in the second half and cruised to a 90-60 victory over Bradley, keeping the longest current home win streak in the nation alive.
A few notes:
- Allonzo Trier. Whoa. Talk about night and day with his Arizona debut. He led the way with 22 points on 4-5 shooting. No, that's not a typo. 22 points. 5 shots. He went 14-14 from the line and he showed why he's as highly-touted as he is. I spoke of how much he settled for the three and played too much 1-on-1 basketball against Pacific. Well, tonight he didn't settle for any bad shots. He just continued to push the issue, forcing the Bradley defense to try to stop him. On Friday, he avoided contact, contorted his body and put up silly shots. Tonight, he drove straight at them (or a couple times, shook them out of their shoes), embraced the contact and took the foul, making several shots along the way. Wonderful game for Allonzo.
- Foul City: There were 57 fouls. It slowed the pace of the game, almost to a complete halt at one point. I have a feeling Arizona is going to find themselves in a few of these games this year, as their main offense, at least so far, is driving to the basket and trying to draw contact. Arizona shot 52(!!!) free throws tonight, a McKale center record. They made 35. Getting 35 points from the line is wonderful but they've got to make better than 67% on a regular basis.
- Shot Selection: Arizona had a tremendous shot selection tonight, as evidenced by their 54% shooting percentage and only shooting 14 3's. Bradley shot just 38%, but that doesn't reflect how many quality shots they had against Arizona, especially in the first half. That's a concern with the Wildcat defense right now as the help isn't getting over quick enough. If not fixed, Arizona could get killed by good ball movement and teams that can shoot.
- Pitts Debuts and Drops Dimes: He didn't do what you might expect. He only scored three points, shot 1-6 from the field, and just 1-4 from 3. But he had a great effect on the offense, leading the team with seven assists and his passing played a large part in pulling away from Bradley in the second half.
All in all, you can't really complain about a 30 point victory, although some will. Arizona looked absolutely dominant in the second half. But, in a game away from home, when the Wildcats may not get all the calls when attacking the basket, Arizona can't particularly afford slow starts defensively and from 3 (started 1-9 tonight, finished 5-14) against teams with talent. But all we need to know at this point: Arizona won by 30 and continues to dominate at McKale.