The Arizona Wildcats earned a hard-fought victory over bitter rival Arizona State in Tempe Sunday, the Wildcats’ first win at Wells Fargo Arena since 2013. The game was chippy from the get-go (no surprise there), and culminated with ASU coach Bobby Hurley being ejected late in the game after arguing multiple foul calls which went against the Sun Devils.
Here are some things we learned (or which were re-emphasized) along the way.
1.) This Arizona team can score
Sunday’s game was the sixth consecutive game with the Cats surpassing 80 points, and the third time this season they’ve scored 90 or more. All five starters scored double digits. The bench chipped in 20. Gabe York (more on him later) and Allonzo Trier got 22 and 20, respectively. In recent years, if an opponent scored 82 against Arizona, it likely spelled doom. Recent teams hit stretches, often long stretches, of offensive stagnancy and difficulty in scoring. This Arizona team has multiple weapons inside and out, and perhaps more importantly, there is no one player you can try to stop to shut things down. If you key on York on the perimeter, Trier (or Kadeem Allen) will punish you. On the interior, if you key on Ryan Anderson, an emerging Dusan Ristic (five-straight games in double figures) and Mark Tollefsen can hurt you, and Kaleb Tarczewski is always a steady hand in the middle for several buckets a game. Seven players average at least eight points per game. The case can be made that this is the most complete team in the Sean Miller era (something color commentator and former Wildcat Sean Elliott said in the broadcast in fact).
2.) Arizona can take a punch in the mouth and keep coming
Arizona won’t play in a more hostile arena this season. The home Sun Devils played well early on and took a nine point lead about ten minutes into the game. The crowd was raucous, and it looked like it could be another long day in Tempe with the Devils seizing momentum. But the Cats weathered the storm and battled back and took a six point halftime lead. The Devils got within three as Arizona missed shots on several consecutive possessions mid-way in the second half. The crowd was ready to blow the roof off with one key bucket to tie or take the lead, but the Wildcats never let that happen, and ASU never got closer than that three point margin. A crucial "Gabe York Being Gabe York" stretch pushed the lead back to double digits, and Arizona never again let the lead dwindle to less than six. This was a resilient performance against a rival really wanting to make a statement with a head coach who knows college basketball rivalries.
3.) When Gabe York is on, he’s unstoppable
During a key stretch in the second half, York hit three 3-pointers to turn a four point lead into a 13 point margin, and gave the Cats some much-needed breathing room in a hotly contested and fiery game, bolstered by ASU’s frothy home crowd. York hit a filthy crossover step back, a deep inside/outside kick out, and a catch-and-shoot off a run out, all three were high degree of difficulty 3’s (ironically, he missed a fourth in a "heat check" moment, where he was wide open at the right arc). When York gets hot, he gets red hot (see also: at Gonzaga). He also proved to be a lightning rod for the road fans, drawing several fouls in which he, let’s say, "sold" the calls. The last such call, a questionable blocking foul, was the last straw for ASU coach Bobby Hurley, who drew his second technical for arguing with the officials and was ejected. If you’re an Arizona fan, York made veteran plays. If you’re an ASU fan, he was flopping.