While the President of the United States of America and the rest of the East Coast were convinced #11 Belmont and its sharpshooting would upset Arizona, basketball analyst and former Phoenix Suns’ great Charles Barkley reassured the West that there was nothing to worry about. While his fellow anchors doubted him, Barkley stood firm. At halftime and while the Wildcats were up by double digits, Barkley said “I told you so.” Kenny Smith remained convinced Belmont would make a comeback, but Barkley simply shrugged it off, boldly stating that east coast reporters did not stay up late enough to watch the talent that is west coast basketball. Smith was obviously and vocally offended by the comment, but Arizona’s second half performance proved Barkley right: east coast reporters do not stay up late enough to watch what’s going on over on the other half of the nation.
Many had the Bruins causing an early upset over the Wildcats because of their incredible shooting. What these people did not take into account, however, was Arizona’s size over Belmont. The Wildcats killed the Bruins on the boards 42-15 (12-2 on the offensive glass) and out-blocked Belmont 5-0. While the Bruins attempted to neutralize this by creating charges–aka flopping like dolls–in the first half, the officials caught on eventually and wouldn’t allow it to continue. Kaleb Tarczewski was especially impressive down low, going 5-5 with 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Despite the disparity in rebounding, Belmont made up for this in turnovers. While Arizona had 15 turnovers, Belmont only had 7. Believe it or not, but the two teams actually had the same amount of shot opportunities from the floor (51) for this reason.
So this is where Belmont’s sharpshooting would come in to take over Arizona, right? Wrong.
Simply put, the Wildcats were much more talented than their counterpart and showed Belmont that shooting is not as easy a task against a team that is more athletic, disciplined and experienced on defense. Arizona limited the Bruins to less than 30% from long range and less than 40% from the field. While three of Belmont’s players were able to put up 56 points, the entire rest of the team was held to just eight. The Bruins’ offense in the paint was a disaster, their outside shooting was below their average and all was lost within the first ten minutes of the game.
Belmont was no match for Arizona on the other end of the floor either. The Wildcats shot 57% from the floor and 53% from distance in what was often a very open look. Mark Lyons led the way with 23 points, Johnson spread the wealth with 5 assists and Parrom–as always–silently did a little bit of everything (12 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists).
Against the wishes of the East, Arizona easily survives the first round and faces the winner of New Mexico/Harvard this Saturday.