For the third time in three games, the No. 19 Arizona Wildcats (3-0) dominated their competition in a blowout home victory, as they beat the San Jose State Spartans 87-39 at McKale Center on Thursday night.
SJSU (1-2) clearly isn’t a very good team — they shot only 23% from the field, 11% from three and 50% from the foul line and are now just 9-55 in head coach Jean Prioleau’s tenure — but Arizona fans will still be pleased after yet another commanding performance to start the 2019-2020 season.
Led by freshman Zeke Nnaji, who is enjoying one of the best starts to a freshman campaign in the program’s recent history, the Cats have now won their three games this year by 39, 21 and 48-point margins.
Our full recap of the game can be found here, while here’s an analysis of some of the major positives and negatives from the night.
Once again, Nnaji was incredible on Thursday night for Arizona.
In just 21 minutes, the freshman from Minnesota posted 26 points on 8-of-8 shooting and went 10-12 from the foul line, all while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out two assists.
He truly dominated the game and scored every which way against San Jose State — getting buckets close to the rim, getting to the line and showing off an impressive mid-range game to boot.
No matter what he did he literally couldn’t be stopped and is now averaging 21.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game after an equally impressing game on the boards.
To put his start to his Arizona career in perspective, look at this tweet from our very own BJP:
Deandre Ayton’s first three games at Arizona (2017-18): 56 points, 35 rebounds, 60.0% FG— Brian Pedersen (@realBJP) November 15, 2019
Lauri Markkanen’s first 3 games at Arizona (2016-17): 61 points, 20 rebounds, 59.4% FG
Zeke Nnaji’s first 3 games at Arizona: 65 points, 30 rebounds, 81.3% FG
More of the same going forward, Zeke. Please.
Strength in Numbers
Despite Nnaji’s dominance, it truly was a team performance for Arizona against the Spartans, as 11 different guys scored for the Cats.
Devonaire Doutrive (more on him in a sec) was the UA’s second-leading scorer behind Nnaji, with 12 points off the bench, but the whole squad got in on the fun as eight Wildcats registered six points in the game and the bench combined for an impressive 42 points and 13 assists.
Jemarl Baker Jr. was effective, finishing with nine points, five assists and no turnovers, while Max Hazzard (six points, three assists and a steal), Stone Gettings (seven points, five rebounds) and Ira Lee (six points, eight boards) all had solid games too.
The freshmen duo of Josh Green and Nico Mannion went for eight and six points respectively.
While those two (both at 12.7 points per game), along with their fellow freshman Zeke Nnaji are currently the Wildcats’ top three leading scorers, it really has been an impressive group effort for Arizona thus far this season and 24 assists on 30 made shots on the night shows just how team-oriented this group is.
The Wildcats are averaging more than 20 assists a game so far.
As we mentioned before, Doutrive played well in his season debut.
After being suspended against NAU and Illinois for still unknown reasons, the sophomore got a nice reception from the crowd when he checked into the game and he not only scored it at an efficient rate (going 3 for 4 from the field, 1 for 1 from 3 and 5 for 6 from the foul line) but he finished with five rebounds and two assists as well.
An admittedly late, but still ideal start to the year for him.
On a night where the Wildcats were never really in danger of losing, they struggled at the beginning of both the first and second halves against San Jose State.
With nearly five minutes gone in the first half, Arizona had scored only five points (all by Nnaji) by the first media timeout, and yet still found themselves ahead 5-3 because of SJSU’s general ineptitude.
The second half was even worse from Cats.
Leading 39-17 at halftime, they played terribly right out of the break, and were outscored by the Spartans 9-1 in the first six and half minutes of the period.
They also committed 5 fouls and 6 turnovers in that time.
Arizona did end up going on an insane 24-0 run after that, to go up 64-28 at the 6:54 mark and really turn the game into a laugher, but the Wildcats won’t be able to afford to come out of the gates like they did on Thursday when they play stiffer competition like the New Mexico State team that comes to McKale on Sunday.
Free Throw Shooting
If there was one thing the Wildcats could have done better in the blowout victory it was this.
Arizona shot just 68 percent from the foul line (albeit on a respectable 28 attempts) but Miller will be hoping that number is closer to the 75-80 percent range going forward.
Of all the Wildcats, Jeter might be the guy who has gotten off to the worst offensive start this season and Thursday was another quiet scoring night scoring for the senior.
He’s currently shooting a team low 33 percent and averaging just 4.3 PPG to start the year.
He is averaging a solid 5.7 rebounds so far though, and while Miller noted after the game that he thinks Jeter will turn it around offensively, he also admitted that there is some need for improvement from the big man going forward.
“Chase hasn’t found his rhythm, that’s on us. We have to work with him, we have to get the ball to him in a good position.” Miller said. “He’ll be fine, he’s experienced. He does a lot of other things, but scoring he really hasn’t really settled in and you can kind of feel that. We have to work with him to get him to get him confident.”
I’m not giving up on Chase either, but rather hoping an appearance in the down category will inspire a quick turnaround after a slow start to the year.