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3 up, 3 down in Arizona’s win over Cal

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There were some good things that happened, and there were some bad things.

devonaire-doutrive-transfer-arizona-wildcats-basketball-recruiting Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats’ victory over the California Golden Bears wasn’t exactly pretty, but beggars can’t be choosers. Not when it comes to snapping a seven-game losing streak.

Our full recap of the 76-51 win can be found here, and here are three positive and negative takeaways from the action.

Up

Ryan Luther

Luther finished the night with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including five 3s, in his best performance since he arrived in the Old Pueblo.

Luther made a pair of triples in the first half and kept up his hot shooting going after the break, hitting back-to-back 3s to push the lead to 15 within the first three minutes of the second half.

The Wildcats are such a different looking team when they have Luther feeling confident, as it opens the floor for the guards to be able to drive and make things happen. If Arizona wants to finish the season on a high note, Luther and his shooting are going to be the straw the stirs the stiff drink that is Arizona at the moment.

Defense

In a game between two struggling teams, Arizona held Cal to just 23 percent shooting in the first half and held them in check from deep, as the Bears only knocked down two of 13 shots while forcing an earnest seven turnovers in the first period.

Arizona’s defense was the only reason the lead at half was 10, as they did themselves no favors on the other side of the court.

That stout defensive effort carried over to the second half, as Arizona held Cal to just 51 points on 30 percent shooting for the night.

Devonaire Doutrive

The man with the coolest name in Tucson came off the bench and provided his usual spark with his electric athleticism and energy in a game that seemed to drag through most of the first half.

The freshman hit a corner 3 to push the lead to 13-9, igniting a run that helped the Wildcats capture a 19-9 lead.

The freshman has been subject to a minutes bump due to Brandon Williams‘ injury and Dylan Smith tweaking his ankle in the first half of this game, and has taken advantage of it.

Doutrive finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds and chipped in 3 assists, his best performance in a Wildcat jersey.

Doutrive’s stat line might not impress the neutral viewer, but the attentiveness on defense and the eagerness to get out into transition and make something happen on both ends of the court was a nice jolt into Arizona’s system early in the game.

Down

Arizona’s offense

Painful to watch doesn’t do the first half performance justice. Arizona put together another dismal offensive performance to start the game, relying on the likes of Alex Barcello, Ira Lee, and Doutrive to score 15 of the teams first 19 points. And that was after the starters all looked like they were paying tribute to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character in Along Came Polly as they just seemed to be hoisting shots off every part of the basket with no regard for the invested viewers who died a little bit every time a shot caromed off target.

Arizona finally picked it up in the last five minutes of the half, giving them a little breathing room heading into the locker room. But when you consider the fact that Cal hasn’t won a Pac-12 game this year, the 10-point halftime lead has to be digested with a little side of context.

Rebounding

This team, like many Sean Miller teams in the past, isn’t a great shooting team. Miller has usually been able to offset the lack of shooting with monstrous size in the front court and on the wings to out-physical and out-muscle opponents inside and win the game in the rebounding margin.

Well, when your frontcourt consists of Ryan Luther, Ira Lee, and Chase Jeter, you aren’t going to be bullying anyone off the court any time soon.

The gulf in size and talent from past seasons was apparent after just the first half, as the Wildcats lost the rebounding battle in the first half 19-17 to a Cal team that isn’t exactly known for their inside presence. Arizona eventually won the rebounding battle, just barely (35-31), but don’t let the numbers lie to you. Arizona wasn’t great on the boards.

If Arizona wants to make any sort of run in the conference tournament, the three frontcourt players are going to have to do a little better than what they showed in McKale on Thursday.

Guard play

Ever since Brandon Williams was sidelined due to injury, Arizona’s backcourt hasn’t been able to adjust to the extra scoring load that has been heaped upon them over recent weeks.

Dylan Smith has been either hot or cold, and he was cold tonight, and understandably due to a tweaked ankle that he suffered in the first half as he finished with just 3 points on 1 of 7 shooting.

Justin Coleman hasn’t been able to find the balance between being the main distributor and also being able to consistently contribute to the points total, finishing the night with 3 points and 8 assists.

Brandon Randolph has hit a plateau in his scoring; and tonight was the night that offered the best chance for him to break out of it, but he was held to 7 points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Luckily, the front court and bench players picked up the slack, but it was far from an all-around performance for the Wildcats.


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