After eating a bunch of turkey and having eight days off in between games, it would have been easy for Arizona (4-0) to come out a little rusty and unprepared against a far inferior opponent (we have all seen it many times before). Last night, however, the Wildcats did not skip a beat at all, crushing Northern Arizona 93-50 in a good start to a stretch involving four games over the next ten days. Let’s see how Arizona did with the points I previewed before this game:
1. Starting lineups
As predicted, size was a huge advantage for Arizona. The Wildcats outrebounded NAU 35-24 and did a good job of congesting the lanes (especially in the second half), causing 15 turnovers, including 8 steals and 5 blocked shots.
Brandon Ashley is beginning to look like a clear favorite to start over Grant Jerrett. Ashley had 23 minutes of playing time to Jerrett’s 16, and though Ashley only had 2 points (Jerrett had 7), he led the team in rebounds with 11 and blocks with 3. As stated earlier, Miller appreciates Ashley’s aggressive play and will continue to favor it until Jerrett steps it up a notch.
2.Three point defense
The only real way for NAU to have a chance at this one was to make it interesting from the three point line, which Arizona had struggled to defend against Long Beach State. The Lumberjacks, however, were only 5-17 (29.4%) from long range, and very few of those shots were open. Arizona showed improvement in this area.
On the other end, Arizona continues to make teams pay for focusing too much on their size down low. The Wildcats were 12-21 (57.1%) from downtown, and it is looking more and more like opponents will have to pick their poison when defending Arizona.
3. Spreading the love
Coming into last night’s game, Arizona was 27th in the nation in field goal percentage and 16th in points per game as a result of being 7th in assists per game. Now, as a result of having another incredible 22 assists last night, Arizona is 10th in field goal percentage and 8th in points per game as a result of being 2nd in assists per game. The benefits of spreading the love clearly shows…
4. Players to Watch
Before last night’s game, NAU’s Dewayne Russell was averaging 16 points a game, shooting with close to 50% accuracy from both the field and from three point range and averaging 4 assists. Arizona limited those numbers to 13 points, 33% shooting accuracy and 1 assist. Noone on NAU’s team had a better game than Russell (intersetingly enough, Russell led his team in rebounds with 6. He is 5’11″).
On Arizona’s end, we will give the player of the game to Solomon Hill. He scored his 17 points with 71% accuracy (75% from three point land), and continues to show his versatility as a small forward.
Fun Fact: Against NAU, Nick Johnson had 7 assists, 4 steals and gave up only 1 turnover. He is averaging 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 turnover a game for an assist/turnover ratio of 5.0.