It was an ugly game, and the result was even uglier for UA, as the Wildcats will need to impress in the Pac-12 in order to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Here are three ups and three downs from Saturday’s game.
There weren’t many ups in this game, and even this one could probably be attributed to Baylor’s somewhat suspect offensive efficiency. Still, holding a power conference team to 58 points isn’t nothing.
Baylor’s offense isn’t incredibly strong. Coming into the game, they were averaging about 67 points per game, an average number. In this game, their performances were even worse, as the Bears shot just 50% from the free throw line. Credit the Wildcats for getting in Baylor’s faces and bringing their percentage down even lower. Chase Jeter had three steals, and Brandon Randolph managed a block as well.
2: Dylan Smith
As usual, Arizona’s bench barely had a chance to make their mark on the game. The reserve with the best performance, and arguably the MVP of the game for Arizona, was Dylan Smith.
Smith, along with starters Brandon Williams, Brandon Randolph, and Justin Coleman, specialize in outside shooting. With the three starters all varying degrees of cold, UA needed Smith to provide any sort of spark. He did just that, burying three of his five attempts from outside.
He never shot a two pointer or a free throw in this game, and his role as a specialist may prove vital in the future. Nine points still isn’t phenomenal, but being able to give the team any sort of boost on nights like this is extremely important.
3: McKale Center Crowd
The aren’t many other positives, so let’s applaud the folks who sat through the abysmal game.
Despite the fact the game tipped at 9 p.m. in Tucson many students are home for the holidays, McKale Center was still pretty lively even as the team faltered on offense.
This is a no-brainer. Scoring 49 points at home against any team is inexcusable. Baylor is a very strong defensive team, and they’ve long had a reputation for both playing up to opponents and being physical under Scott Drew.
Even factoring that in, 49 points is just appalling. Arizona shot 35.8% from the floor, 32.1% from three, and worst of all, an absolutely atrocious 2-for-6 from the free throw line (we’ll get to those low numbers in a second). The team had been slightly cold in recent weeks, and close games against UConn and Alabama were a bit nerve-wracking. A performance like this though, is still hard to believe.
Yet, the worst part of this game is how badly Arizona was outrebounded, as Baylor’s aforementioned physicality brutally crushed any chance Arizona had of winning.
The rebounding margin in this game was one of the worst of this season in college basketball: an astonishing count of 51-19. Arizona gave up more offensive rebounds than it had defensive rebounds.
It might be literally impossible to win a basketball game with that stat line, and it’s actually amazing Arizona stayed within the game all the way into the final minute considering this dichotomy.
This is an absolute must-fix, especially since Arizona State, Colorado, and UCLA are all top 25 in rebounding margin as of Saturday night.
I’m not quite willing to say that the disparity between the two teams in personal fouls was as bad as the disparity between rebounds, but it still wasn’t pretty and it’s been an issue all season thus far.
Free throws, or lack thereof, were probably the nail in the coffin in last Sunday’s loss to Alabama. This weekend, they were one of many. The Wildcats attempted a pathetic six free throws against Baylor, and even worse, could only convert two of them.
Baylor only committed 17 personal fouls, and Arizona missed the front end of two one-and-ones. Meanwhile, Arizona committed 21 fouls, and since only a few players played meaningful minutes, a lot of the team was in foul trouble. That isn’t so bad, especially since intentional fouls inflate that number.
However, shooting six free throws, a week after having trouble getting to the line, is a horrendous sign.