The Arizona Wildcats faced the Wichita State Shockers in round one action of the 2016 NCAA basketball tournament. A common coaching strategy is to break a game down into manageable chunks: to win each five minutes. Arizona didn’t win much all night. They eventually fell 65-55 to end the 2015-16 season.
To start the game, Wichita doubled Arizona's point guard after the first made basket. The Wildcats seemed surprised by the maneuver, and a Sean Miller timeout 53 seconds into the game was an ominous sign of which team was prepared to compete.
Wichita State came out and dominated the half. Their offensive execution was smooth, and their competitive intensity was top notch. To this point, Arizona looked like a team well out of its element, which was a fear of mine since I saw they were selected to play in Rhode Island. The first sign of life for the Wildcats was a Gabe York three-pointer with 6:20 to go in the half. Unfortunately, the ‘Cats couldn’t get a run going, as the next offensive possession ended in a Kadeem Allen offensive foul.
I like Allonzo Trier, he’s a nice ball player with a high ceiling. But, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker of Wichita State took him to school on more than one occasion. The first half of this game was the most resounding argument for him to return for a sophomore year.
Kaleb Tarczewski more than pulled his weight, bringing with him a physical style of play. Other than that, it was bad. Arizona went to the locker room shooting 27% with 10 turnovers. Sean Miller failed to hide his jealousy at how Wichita State executed defense. Wichita 31 – Arizona 19 at the half.
It’s always telling to see the adjustments that a coach makes at halftime and if the players are able to make corrections. Arizona came out of the locker room enforcing their advantage inside, but failing to stop Wichita State offensively. Sean Miller and the players seemed agitated, but complaining to the officials wasn’t going to fix what was ailing the Wildcats. As we argued non-calls, Wichita State executed fast breaks.
With about ten minutes left in the game, Arizona woke up and started to give fans a glimmer of hope with an 11-0 run. Gabe York hit a shot, the defense stopped Wichita from scoring for a stretch, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright gave solid minutes at point guard.
In the end, though, the glimmer was nothing more than a signal from the famous Block Island lighthouse, a signal the Wildcats failed to recognize as their season crashed hopelessly into the cold Northeastern bluffs of Rhode Island.