While a lot of NCAA Tournament games start out at super speed, with both teams trying to get the upper hand as soon as possible, that didn't happen when Arizona and Memphis took the court. Both squads played within themselves from the onset.
Memphis showed their athleticism and speed early on, jumping out to a 10-1 lead using defense and good passing in the transition game. Arizona struggled to get their offense going, and the smothering Tigers defense from the onset wore down the Wildcats guards.
But then, balance began to seep into the game. Coach Sean Miller reiterated to his team the importance of involving Derrick Williams in every play, and the Wildcats reminded themselves that they were the Pac-10 regular season conference champions.
Williams is a first-team All-American this season, and he showed his ability in the paint against younger defenders. He took a breather early on in the first half, and Memphis was able to increase their lead to 19-11 before Williams returned.
As a writer who has watched Arizona carefully this season, this matchup against Memphis concerned me the moment it was announced on Selection Sunday. The Wildcats are not an extremely athletic or fast team; their strengths lie in quality coaching, well-designed plays, and controlling the pace of the games. In a word, their hallmark is consistency.
The Tigers, on the other hand, play with a lot of freedom, using their athleticism to outrun and overpower their opposition. The youth movement in Memphis is led by four freshmen who excel at the transition game.
In order to win this contest, Arizona needs to keep Memphis in a half-court offense, forcing them to score against the Wildcats man-to-man defense. The Wildcats will look to utilize the half-court offense on their own end, working the ball into Williams and letting his talent take care of the rest.
Arizona also needs to remember that they are a team that thrives on consistency and execution. Getting into a track and field competition with Memphis in the second half will not result in a happy ending for the Wildcats.
At the half, Arizona holds a 41-38 lead. Derrick Williams was the best player on the court in the first half, scoring 12 points and scooping up six rebounds.
The winner of Memphis and Arizona will take on the Texas Longhorns on Sunday. Texas survived the Oakland Grizzles 85-81 in early second round action.