The Arizona Wildcats bounced back in a big way Thursday night at home against the Pac-12 leading Washington Huskies, who came in with an unblemished 3-0 league record. The game was tight in the first half and the Huskies took the lead late in the frame. But a combination of both better offense and better defense in the second half led to a surge which Washington was never able to overcome and the Cats won going away, turning a three point halftime lead into a 32 point victory.
We learned several things from the game.
1.) Ryan Anderson wants to be the alpha dog… again
For most of the season, Ryan Anderson has been the Wildcats' most consistent and steady player, particularly on the offensive end; a double-double waiting to happen. But steadily, Allonzo Trier crept on him for the team scoring lead and eventually overtook him, and was, prior to his injury, becoming the player the offense largely flowed through.
The USC game in particular highlighted this development: Trier finished with 25 points on 19 shots while Anderson netted just five points on a mere seven shots, in what was likely Anderson’s worst game as a Wildcat. He, like the Cats at large, bounced back significantly, and set the tone early, scoring six quick points in the first few minutes.
Anderson is a crucial player for this year’s team (both in terms of production and experience) and his success versus the Huskies, 21 points on 7-10 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, bodes well going forward in the short term without Trier. Arizona is at their best when Anderson is at his best, and hopefully he is ready to roll going forward. He certainly came ready to play Thursday night.
2.) Kaleb Tarczewski is a dominant big man... when he is a dominant big man
This may seem pretty obvious at first glance. I’ve been a little hard on Zeus over the course of his career, simply because as a legitimate 7-footer and 5-star recruit (e.g. No. 9 overall per Scout), a true old school post player, he underachieved statistically (and to an extent from the eyeball test) in rebounding and was often maddeningly inconsistent. Entering the year, Tarczewski averaged only 5.9 rebounds a game and would seemingly disappear for stretches of games despite his stature and capability. Certainly a large part of his contribution is not statistically discernible (the proverbial "beyond the box score" player), but a player with his skill set and size at the collegiate level should be a better rebounder, plain and simple.
Thursday night was a showcase of what Zeus can do at his best. He finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, 12 on the defensive end which led to frequent transition opportunities. When he’s active and locked in, he is an elite big who can affect the game on both ends.
Another note: Tarczewski dunks like he has a personal vendetta against the rim… and I like it.
3.) Parker Jackson-Cartwright The Maligned can be a stalwart floor general
As the appellation indicates, Jackson-Cartwright (PJC to the kids) has been somewhat denigrated at times, often deservedly so, because of his inconsistent play. Coming out of high school, PJC was considered among the best pure point guards in his class. Per his ESPN recruiting scouting report: "Although he doesn't possess prototypical size for the next level, he is the region's best basketball player. His savvy, skill, and quickness are uncanny. It's early, but he is the best point guard, at this stage, that we have seen since Baron Davis laced them up at Crossroads High School." Pretty high praise… and mostly unrealized at this stage.
However, versus Washington, he showed flashes of the skills he has as a consummate one-guard. Obviously the double-digit assist total and 11:1 assist-to-turnover ratio stand out, but just watching him run the floor was beautiful -- and heartening -- for a player some fans have been ready to cast aside (myself not necessarily excluded).
Kadeem Allen has been great, and I for one am excited about what he can do both this season and as a senior, but he, along with Justin Simon (and potentially Kobi Simmons next year) are, at the end of the day, more combo guards (and that’s not a bad thing). Jackson-Cartwright is a true pass-first, playmaking point guard… when he, like Tarczewski above, is locked in. Time will tell what his ultimate future at Arizona looks like, but for one night, he showed what he can do.