Well...that was fun.
In an absolute shootout, the 12th-ranked Arizona Wildcats outlasted the Boise State Broncso, 88-76, on Thursday night.
However, nothing came easy. Well, except for a lot of buckets. But for every easy, silky smooth Arizona basket, Boise State had a response and then some. The first half was wild, both teams going back and forth. At one point, late in the half, Arizona's Gabe York and Boise State forward, Nick Duncan, traded baskets like heavyweights trading punches. York knocked down three three-pointers in the first half and led the 'Cats at the break with 15 points. He finished with a career-high 23 points. Duncan led the way for Boise State and put on an absolute show. The big man knocked down four three-pointers and had 16 points in the first half alone.
When the second half started, Arizona was clinging to a 44-42 lead and trying to figure out a way to stop the high-powered Broncos offense. For the opening minutes, it didn't particularly work, as Boise State forward, James Webb III, took over. He kept Boise State alive, scoring 19 second half points and 27 overall.
But Arizona proved to be too much. Allonzo Trier had a fantastic second half, Kadeem Allen consistently found the open man, York made some more huge shots and Ryan Anderson dominated the glass (he finished with 15 rebounds). While the defense in the second half still left something to be desired, it came up with huge plays, with four second half steals, and highlight reel blocks by Anderson and York. At a certain point, Boise State ran out of ammunition and the Wildcats pulled away late, to take the 12-point win.
A few notes from the game...
Parker Jackson-Cartwright was a major difference maker in the first half and was by far the best PJC we've seen. Sean Miller agreed, and he said after the game he thought this was PJC's best game of his career. He had his career high in scoring in the first half! He had 12 points at the break and finished with 14 on the night. The biggest thing was how efficient he was, going 5-5 from the floor and 2-2 from deep in the first half. If he can make this a regular occurrence and prove to be a guy that shouldn't be left alone from three-point territory, that would add another dangerous element to the Wildcat offense.
A major rarity occurred in McKale Center tonight: The offense carried the team to victory! Quite frankly, I think this is something the Wildcat faithful should be proud of. The Wildcats withstood an absolute onslaught from Boise State. In some cases, it was a porous defense from the Wildcats. The help was occasionally slow, and they didn't close out well on three pointers, but in other cases, it was just spot on shooting by the Broncos. Arizona answered Boise State every time they would splash a jumper or blow by for an easy layup. Traditionally in the Sean Miller era, his teams have proven they can win ugly. They don't need to score 70 because they'll make sure you don't score 60. Tonight was a whole other ballgame. I think tonight was a character test and the Wildcats passed.
The point guards were huge for Point Guard U: I already touched on the first half play of PJC but I don't want the play of Kadeem Allen to go unnoticed. He led the charge in the second half with fantastic passing and decision making. It's clear that whoever has the hot hand, be it Allen or Jackson-Cartwright, that's the guy that will get the majority of the minutes at the position.
Should Trier be starting? It's probably too early in the season to be clamoring for a lineup change but after Trier's dazzling second half (11 points in the second half, 13 overall), should he be getting the start over Mark Tollefsen, who didn't play poorly but was a virtual non-factor in tonight's game? It could be something to keep an eye on.
It was a fun one to watch at McKale Center tonight and the win means Arizona has extended its home winning streak to 41 games. They'll go for 42 against Northwestern State on Sunday night.