The Arizona Wildcats struggled mightily on Saturday afternoon in front of a pro-Gonzaga crowd in Seattle as they fell 71-60. The UA fell behind 14-0 to begin the game, and despite a few attempts at a big rally in the second half, a lack of rebounding ultimately did the team in.
The story of the game came with about five minutes remaining in the contest. Arizona was within a few possessions and were on defense. After solid play for 25 seconds, they forced big man Robert Sacre to take a poor, off balance shot. With three Wildcats around the rebound, Gonzaga forward Elias Harris, who finished with 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting, tipped the ball off the backboard and somehow made the basket.
One box-out or one inch to the right and that ball doesn't go in. Neither happened. That was the story of the game for the Wildcats.
Similar to the San Diego State loss, Arizona simply could not overcome the early deficit. Until the team learns to focus for the entire 40 minutes and get off to better starts, it's tough to see them making much of a run in March Madness.
Nick Johnson led the way with 13 points and five assists. Kyle Fogg added 12 of his own, while Jesse Perry and Jordin Mayes scored nine each. Kyryl Natyazhko contributed for the first time in weeks on the defensive end of the floor, containing Robert Sacre for much of the afternoon.
As afore mentioned, Elias Harris could not be stopped for the Zags. Kevin Pangos scored 13 points, making nine free throws, and big man Sam Downer contributed eight points in the second half.
This was a huge opportunity for Arizona to gain a quality road win and they fell flat on their faces. The team continues to improve, but until they find more consistency on both ends of the court, they will continue to struggle. The Wildcats play next on Tuesday night against Oakland.
The Arizona Wildcats played their worst half of the year and refused to work for anything other than jump shots. At the half, the UA trails the Gonzaga Bulldogs 39-21. To say the effort in the first 20 minutes was putrid would be an insult to putrid things around the world.
Arizona shot 1-for-9 from behind the arc and did not make a free throw in the half. Nick Johnson has one-third of the team's points with seven, while Jordin Mayes and Jesse Perry scored four points. Solomon Hill was 0-for-3 from behind the arc, has two points, no rebounds and no assists.
Gonzaga can do no wrong on either end of the court. They shot 43% from the floor, made eight free throws and hit three 3's. Elias Harris has dominated for GU, scoring 17 points in the first half.
The Wildcats fell behind 14-0 early and did not cut the deficit to less than 12 the rest of the way. It appeared the UA was mounting a late rally to end the half, but two turnovers quickly ended any chance of that.
At this point, anything less than a double digit loss is probably a moral victory. That first half was embarrassing and pathetic to watch. When is this team going to learn they cannot jack up shots whenever they feel like it?
The Arizona Wildcats are looking to a signature victory to their resumé and they can do so with a big win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs this afternoon. In what should be a great atmosphere at Key Arena for the Battle In Seattle, Wildcat and Bulldog fans should expect a high-scoring game that will go down to the wire. Each program brings a lot of talent whenever they step on the court.
Start Time: Tipoff is set for 1:00 p.m. from Seattle. That's 2:00 p.m. in Arizona.
TV Coverage: CBS will have coverage across the nation.
Radio: 1290-AM The Source will broadcast the game in Tucson.
Opening Line: Gonzaga enters the game as 4.5-point favorites.
Saturday's game is a big one for the Wildcats. The odds may be against them on the road, but this team is playing their best basketball of the year. We'll know a lot more about the UA after this weekend; it's time to see what we're made of.