At Saturday’s Hoophall LA, Gonzaga got their long-awaited win over Arizona, 69-62.
This was a rough one for the Wildcats from the get-go. A slow start snowballed into a large second half deficit. The best player on the team had his first mediocre, let alone bad, performance. The shooting woes caused all kinds of problems. It was just a tough day for Arizona, facing their first consensus legitimate Final Four contender.
So what can be taken away from this one? Here’s three things we learned from Saturday afternoon’s defeat:
GET THAT WEAK STUFF OUTTA HERE
As the game really got away from the Wildcats in the first half, there was a common theme on Arizona’s offensive possessions. They’d drive to the rim and one of three things would happen: A) drive into traffic and have to kick out or settle for a contested jumper. B) Continue toward the rim and have their shot affected by Gonzaga. Or C) have the shot flat out swatted away.
Gonzaga blocked seven shots on Saturday, compared to Arizona’s two. Five of those Bulldog blocks came in the first half.
Much has been made about Arizona’s size as they have three guys that see heavy minutes that hover around seven feet tall. Gonzaga has two big dudes of their own. On Saturday afternoon, we found out the difference between a height advantage and a size advantage.
Arizona had the height in their favor. But when you get a man like Przemek Karnowski — and folks, he is a man. He’s a 7’1” Polish powerhouse that looks forty years old and plays like a seasoned vet. When you have a guy the size of Karnowski that can bully his way into the paint with little effort, that whole three guys at seven feet tall thing doesn’t mean much.
Gonzaga had their way in the paint at both ends and made Arizona work for everything. That was key in putting Arizona in too deep a hole to climb out of at the end.
FIGHT, FIGHT, WILDCATS, FIGHT
Arizona dug a hole too deep for most of the first half and the opening minutes of the second half. And, as seen by the final score, they couldn’t climb out of it. But it truly wasn’t for a lack of effort.
A lot more is being asked of the seven active scholarship players than, at the very least, they expected. Due to unforeseen circumstances with injuries and eligibility, this is the team that Arizona has to work with. I think the fight exhibited by each and every one of those guys in the final eight minutes of the ballgame is something to be extremely proud of.
I realize this is Arizona basketball where there are no moral victories and the expectations are obscenely high. But a criminally short-handed Arizona team played a legit top ten opponent, who knows them well, on a neutral floor. And they got their butts kicked for thirty minutes. The response by everyone wearing an Arizona uniform to play as hard as possible is a very encouraging sign of the character that this roster has.
TO CONTEND, THE GUY IN THE SWEATS IS GONNA NEED TO PLAY
I’ve tried my best to avoid this subject when writing about this team for the simple fact that everything is up in the air and all anyone can do is speculate. But this Gonzaga game showed that, maybe, Arizona can’t hang with the big boys as the roster stands right now.
Sure, Lauri Markkanen had a bad game. If he had shot his normal percentages, Arizona wins. It’s really not that simple but it’s a novel concept.
This is bigger than that. We’re less than a month away from conference play and a couple teams in the Pac-12 look ready to roll.
The UCLA Bruins are arguably the hottest team in college basketball. They certainly have the nation’s attention after knocking off the number one ranked team in their own building.
Allonzo Trier made his first road trip of the season this weekend. This is perhaps the oddest development in the mysterious Trier saga. Trier can apparently travel with the team but still hasn’t played.
How this whole situation ends up is anyone’s guess. But the fact remains — not just to contend for a National Championship or a Final Four, but to contend in the Pac-12, this team needs Allonzo Trier sooner than later.