The Arizona Wildcats snapped their two-game road losing streak on Thursday night with a 71-57 win over the Stanford Cardinal. It wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing game, but a win is a win. And, like always, we were able to learn a few things about the team in the process. Here they are.
The defense is capable of playing well in the first half
Sean Miller has said he's never seen anything like the disparity between Arizona's first and second half defense. Coming into this game, the Wildcats hadn't held their opponent under a 50 percent field-goal percentage in four games. UCLA, USC, Washington, and Washington State all had no trouble against Arizona's defense in the first 20 minutes, but the Wildcats were finally able to end that streak in this game. The Cardinal shot just 11-32 (34.4%) in the first half.
While that trend ended, another continued. Like the other four games, Arizona's defense was even better in the second half, as Stanford shot just 26.7% in the second half. Any time you can hold an opposing offense to those type of numbers, it's impressive, but in this case I thought they were a bit deceiving. Arizona went to a zone at one point, and I felt like Stanford was really able to get some good looks against it. There were a few instances where the Wildcats' rotation was quite slow, and it would leave a Stanford player wide open. The Cardinal simply couldn't hit open shots. The Wildcats also fouled a bit too much for my liking, but for some reason when they visit Maples Pavilion the games always seem to be officiated tighter than usual. I did like how they protected the rim, though.
And all in all, there was progress made on the defensive end, and that's all you can ask for. This is an offensive-minded team (that's weird to say about a Sean Miller-coached team, isn't it?), and if it can continue to improve its defense, this will be a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament.
Kadeem Allen is an iron man
Sean Miller and a few teammates have praised Kadeem Allen's durability before, and we saw another example of it in this game. With about 11 minutes left in the second half, the game had to be stopped after Allen was hobbling up the court. He subbed himself out and headed to the locker room. It certainly wasn't encouraging, but after getting his ankle taped up, Allen was back out there and he'd wind up playing the rest of the game -- while performing quite well I might add. He hit a dagger three-pointer late in the half and then had a chase down block when the game was already out of hand. His ankle didn't appear to be limiting him at all, and clearly that's great news. Parker Jackson-Cartwright struggled mightily in this game and so Allen was needed more than ever, especially since Allonzo Trier is out.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright is an enigma
It looked like Jackson-Cartwright was breaking out of his season-long struggles after an outstanding home stand against the Washington schools in which he had 18 assists and just three turnovers. But he regressed back to his early-season self in this game.
Foul trouble limited him to just 19 minutes, and when he was on the court, it was brutal. He picked up two charging fouls (okay, one was a little bogus), missed all three of his field-goal attempts -- including a wide-open corner three -- had as many turnovers as assists (3), and missed both of his free throw attempts. When handling the ball, he was reckless, which was the opposite of how he played last week when he completely controlled both the tempo of the game and offense.
At this point, I really don't know what to make of PJC. When he plays well, he can be an extremely effective facilitator, but when he's bad, he's a major net negative. He had a -7 plus-minus in this game, which was only better than Justin Simon, who was a -8. I hope we see more "good PJC" than "bad PJC" moving forward, but this season it's been way more bad than good.