One week removed from what might have been the most disappointing weekend of Gabe York's Arizona career, he followed it up with a pair of legendary performances, leading the Arizona Wildcats to victories over the California Golden Bears and Stanford Cardinal.
On a weekend where Arizona capped off its regular season with two wins, heading into the conference tournament with a 24-7 record, we learned a few things about Gabe York, the team's shooting, the team's heart and the beauty of Arizona basketball.
This could be the gutsiest Arizona team of all-time
It would be easy to say this is the worst Arizona team in the last few years. To be fair, they are just that, in terms of both talent and performance. Arizona has played inconsistently from game to game all season long and have been more than frustrating to watch on multiple occasions.
However, this team has done one thing consistently since the very start of the season: Fight. It battles back and makes a valiant effort to overcome anything that is thrown its way. This was never more evident than Thursday night's victory over Cal, when Arizona trailed by eight with 1:55 remaining and finished the game on an 11-0 run to steal the victory out of the hands of the Golden Bears. The Wildcats locked down defensively and relied on the superb second half performance of Gabe York, highlighted by two late 3-pointers to take the lead. Arizona would win, 64-61.
That will be this team's legacy, no matter where its season ends. No deficit has been too much for these Wildcats. No injury has been too severe. No roster change has been too much. This isn't the juggernaut of the last two seasons. This team isn't going to be on everyone's bracket as a Final Four team or National Championship contender. But, for all their inconsistencies, this is a team that should never be counted out, no matter who it's playing or what stage it's on.
When the 3's are falling...look out
Saturday afternoon was an absolute obliteration of Stanford, 94-62. Arizona set a team record for 18 3-pointers made in the game, led by Gabe York, who made an absurd nine, yes, NINE, three pointers on the day, tying the Arizona school record.
When the season started, I was under the impression that this would be a predominately 3-point shooting team. With York, Elliott Pitts and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, I thought Allonzo Trier and Mark Tollefsen would add even more shooting.
I was wrong. Quite wrong. This team has not been a shooting team. Instead, its focus has been pounding the ball inside and scoring in the paint with reckless abandon.
I believe that teams that can shoot are teams that go far in the NCAA tournament. Yesterday proved that they can do that. While nobody could ever possibly expect Gabe York to shoot 9-14 from deep ever again, if he can shoot it consistently and if Arizona can capitalize on a successful inside-out game, the Wildcats shooting can propel them to unexpected heights in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.
Arizona basketball, and college basketball in general, is a beautiful thing
Yesterday's Senior Day saw everything go right for the Wildcats. And that's exactly what Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York deserved. Both kids have given everything they've got to the Arizona program over the last four years. Yesterday, Zeus tied late-80's Wildcat, Matt Muehlebach, for most victories in a Wildcat uniform, a feat that should be celebrated for years to come.
But it's not just the four-year guys that got all the playing time that had all the fun. Jacob Hazzard came in and drained three late 3s to add to the Wildcat barrage and get his name on the scoreboard one final time. It couldn't have been written better than that.
Arizona basketball is special. You can see that on the faces of Tarczewski, York and Hazzard during their Senior ceremonies after the game. All those young men spent four long, successful years in Tucson. But the perfect example of how special it is, was the look on the faces of Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen.
Both men decided to spend their final year of eligibility at Arizona. But when the day was wrapping up, their emotions showed that they felt like they'd been at Arizona for a lifetime. Because from the moment they donned the Wildcat uniform, they were embraced as if they'd been here all along. It's that family, that community feeling, that makes Arizona basketball so unique.