The Arizona Wildcats beat the Stanford Cardinal 70-54 to notch their second win in a row, sweeping the Bay Area schools in a crucial weekend that has seemed to breathe life into a once-seemingly lost season.
Here are the three things that I saw that I loved, and three things that I felt like Arizona could work on or improve going forward.
The sophomore post player had the best game he has had as a Wildcat, and it came at the perfect time. He finished the night with a career-high 16 points on an incredibly efficient 6-for-7 shooting while also pitching in five assists in just 20 minutes of play.
In a game where Arizona seemed to slog through it on the offensive end, the jolt that the energetic big man gave to not only his team, but the McKale Center crowd, was the antidote the Wildcats needed to separate themselves from a feisty Stanford team that always seemed to be a couple buckets away from making a run.
⬇️@APlayersProgam Wins! pic.twitter.com/sGiWVc9N5L— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) February 25, 2019
He’s back, and boy did Arizona miss the freshman combo guard. The Los Angeles native made his welcome official as he saved a ball from going out of bounds, diving headfirst over the sideline video board, landing on the lap of the scoreboard attendant and barely missing Sean Miller in the process.
The play might have been inconsequential in the long run of the game, but when your most dynamic player and scorer—who has been missing for almost a month—puts his body on the line like that, it’s a more-than-welcome sign for Arizona fans with ASU and the Pac-12 tournament on the horizon.
Arizona’s winning streak against Stanford
There is no other way to describe the Arizona-Stanford relationship over the last decade than pure domination. The win over the Cardinal on Sunday night stretched Arizona’s win streak to 19 games, the longest current head-to-head streak among Pac-12 teams. Miller just doesn’t like losing to Stanford, and he has their number unlike any other coach in the nation. The streak is well into the ridiculous range, but a couple more wins would make this absolutely extraordinary.
The last time Stanford beat Arizona, Johnny Dawkins didn’t have any #NIT titles— Brian Pedersen (@realBJP) February 25, 2019
Even though the Wildcats came out to a blistering 14-3 lead to open the game, the offense hit a snag after the first five minutes and slowly allowed Stanford to crawl back into the game. Stanford came back to make it a three-point game at 22-19, and much of it was due to Arizona inefficiently running its offense, and the substitutions that Miller—in an attempt to correct things—made seemed to throw Arizona out of their original rhythm.
Arizona ended the first half shooting just 39 percent, while also finishing the first 20 minutes going 3 of 14 from three after hitting two in the first five minutes of the game. The Wildcats shot 50 percent in the second half and were 3 of 6 from deep after halftime.
After the best game as a Wildcat, senior Ryan Luther struggled to get any sort of offensive game going, finishing the game with seven points on 3-for-7 shooting. He was a shadow of his breakout game just a couple days before against Cal.
Luther wasn’t the only elder statesman who struggled putting the ball in the basket against Stanford. Junior Dylan Smith finished the game with two points on 1-for-9 shooting, putting the finishing touches on a weekend he probably would like to forget after he was 1 for 7 on Thursday.
Even in the win, Arizona once again struggled on the boards. The Wildcats lost the rebounding battle 35-34 after barely beating Cal in the same category just a couple days before. With Arizona not being the sharpest of shooters, and that is putting it lightly, rebounding becomes an incredibly important part of Arizona and their hope of making a run at securing a long shot bid to the big dance. If the Wildcats can’t rebound, they are dead in the water against the top half of the conference.
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