Arizona Basketball rebounded nicely with a 68-52 point win on the road against the California Golden Bears, thanks to senior guard Dylan Smith delivering from long range.
Sustained effort. That would be the best way to describe this one as Arizona Basketball shot slightly better to start the game, but the California Golden bears stuck around for most of the game until the Wildcats got going in the second half. Behind the three-point shooting of Dylan Smith and the paint punisher, Zeke Nnaji, they ran away with this one 68-52.
With this win, there is now a four-way tie for first place in the Pac-12. Oregon, Colorado and Arizona State round out the top 4 teams, each with four losses. What a crazy conference season it has been!
At one point in this game, California cut it to within with about 14 minutes left. The Wildcats found a way to focus on the task at hand and not get rattled. They would go on a 13-0 run at that point and never look back.
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In the first half, the Wildcats shooting woes continued. They were 11-24 from the field and just 1-7 from the long distance. Nnaji led the way with six points and two rebounds. The other four starters each had a few baskets minus Smith who didn’t score in the first 20 minutes of play.
The Wildcats finished the first half shooting 46% from the field, were dominating the pain thanks to Nnaji and played solid team defense, forcing the Bears to shoot 32% from the field and ended the half with a seven-point lead.
Heading into this one, there was speculation that Sean Miller might mix things up with the starting rotation, but he didn’t. Glad he didn’t. Smith Berkly showed up as he knocked down the first three of the second half for the Wildcats (and his first one after going 0-17 in his last outings).
Smith ended up making three more from long range, including two back-to-back ones late in the game, increasing the Wildcats lead to 17. He finished with 14 points, five rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes of play.
Nnaji was the key tonight. He simply dominated the paint. The Bears did everything they could to make it difficult for him, but it was not enough. Nnaji showed off his strength and touch in the paint, finishing with 21 points, five rebounds, and two assists.
Nico Mannion, of course, contributed in all sorts of ways with 10 points, one rebound, and five assists. He was getting others involved and even though shots weren’t falling, that didn’t stop him from having a big impact on the game. Green only had four points, but his tenacity on the glass with six rebounds was huge.
Bench play was solid as well. They had a total of 12 points and gave the Wildcats the edge needed in this one. Chase Jeter even made an appearance in this one and had one basket. Hopefully, he can get some more minutes for this team, adding depth to the frontcourt.
As a team, they shot 55% from the field and 50% from three, that’s good! The area they struggled in tonight was from the free-throw line, where they went 12-19.
The Bears attempted to make a comeback, but the Wildcats didn’t let the happen. This team remained focused and showed why they can be a dangerous tournament team if they get going from long range. At Zona Zealots, we are proud of Arizona Basketball and how they earned a Pac-12 road win. As always, Bear Down, Arizona!