The Arizona Wildcats started their conference play a few weeks ago with three-straight road games, and two of them didn't end well in the state of California. This week, they're back in California to take on the Bay Area schools and there was some concern, with the mass chaos in the conference, that this weekend could be similar. Arizona put those concerns to bed as they defeated the Stanford Cardinal in Maples Pavilion, 71-57.
While Arizona has looked like an absolute offensive juggernaut in the past month, it was a vintage Sean Miller Wildcat basketball game as the defense led the way for Arizona's victory. They held Stanford to 31% from the floor and an anemic 19% from beyond the arc.
The first half started well for Arizona as they opened 5-of-7 from the floor and jumped out to an early 12-4 lead. After that, things weren't pretty for either offense. Arizona gave away several turnovers and Stanford still wasn't having much luck in the scoring department. But, as Stanford has done all year, they hung tough with a more talented team. They clawed back and only trailed by one, 31-30 at halftime.
After another quick Arizona start, Stanford answered with a 7-0 run to take a 40-39 lead over the Cats with just over 14 minutes to go, and it looked as if the Arizona faithful were in for another road game nail-biter. But from that point on, Arizona would take over. Led by a string of numerous easy layups, Arizona would finish the game on a 32-17 run.
Gabe York led all scorers with 19 points. Ryan Anderson finished up with 18 points and 8 rebounds on a perfect 7-7 from the floor. Freshman Stanford guard, Marcus Sheffield, scored 17 points off the bench.
A few thoughts on the game...
- There has to be a major sigh of relief by the coaching staff right now. Sean Miller is a defensive-minded coach, and he had to be extremely pleased to see the Wildcats win with defense Thursday. While a high-powered offense is a fantastic weapon to have, Arizona has been in two straight Elite Eights with a defensive identity. It was nice to see that this particular group has that in them, especially on the road against a rather pesky opponent.
- Mark Tollefsen appears to be a lot more comfortable after spending some time coming off the bench with the emergence of Allonzo Trier. Now, with Trier down, Tollefsen has stepped in and contributed very well. He finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
This was Arizona's 12th consecutive win over Stanford, the longest streak any Pac-12 team has over any Pac-12 opponent. Arizona improves to 4-2 in conference play and look to continue their winning ways on Saturday at Haas Pavilion against the California Golden Bears.