The Arizona Wildcats went up to Spokane, Washington and came out on top with a second half surge over the Gonzaga Bulldogs. This game truly had two totally different halves to it, as Arizona had no identity in the first half, and came away with a big-time win on the road. Through it all, there are three, and probably, more things that we learned about this team.
1. Gabe York is what Arizona needs
Arizona had no offense in the first half. And then once the second half happened, things started to get weird. York hit four three balls in the span of about four minutes, and put this team back in position to win it.
I've said all along that he is the catalyst to this offense, and that his confidence is exactly what this team needs. Sometimes he's a bit reckless, including his blocked dunk attempt, but I like seeing Gabe York's fearlessness come out. At times on offense, guys seem to be waiting for a perfect look to happen, when it's not always going to happen.
That's when Gabe York comes off a screen to try and knock down a three, or cut to the rim for a floater. This was a great performance for York, where he single-handedly brought this team back together on offense. Allonzo Trier and Ryan Anderson helped along the way, but no shots were bigger than York's NBA range three balls.
2. Arizona doesn't have a defensive stopper
Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis dominated the first half, scoring a combined 32 points before halftime. Sabonis went on to finish with 18 and Wiltjer with 33. They were having their way all half, taking advantage of the size mismatch down low. But even then, Wiltjer was able to expand his services from beyond the arc.
Wiltjer and Sabonis were going to get their own, but having Kaleb Tarczewski out there definitely would have helped cap them off a bit. Not to say that Tarczewski is a stone wall defender, but he is definitely a talented big man on defense with a lot of reach.
And this is when you miss guys like Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, all guys who had length and could shut down an opponent. Elliott Pitts is a great defensive complement, but not quite at that level of the guys mentioned above.
With each of Arizona's last four opponents, they've allowed a scorer to go over 20 points, which is a bit concerning to think about, especially when you consider some of the talented players that Arizona will be playing in the Pac-12.
3. Wildcats have a lot of fight
Arizona went into Gonzaga without Kaleb Tarczewski, was down by as many as 14 points in the first half, and came back out with a win.
Sean Miller was scrambling in the first half for any burst of energy, as we saw both Justin Simon and Chance Comanche out there early. The first half was rough, defensively against Wiltjer and Sabonis, and no shots seemed to be going down for Arizona.
But the second half we suddenly saw the team gather up some confidence, tighten up on defense with some adjustments, and slowly chip away at the lead. Once the lead was no more, Arizona steadily kept a one possession lead down the stretch of that game.
I think that's a true testament to Sean Miller believing in his players, and letting them do what they do. His adjustments on defense certainly frustrated the bigs of Gonzaga, and every lineup in the second half seemed to be fairly effective.
This is a game that could have easily been a devastating 30 point loss the way things were looking. But some big time surges by Gabe York and Allonzo Trier as a result of some great defensive stops gave this team the energy and fight necessary for the win.