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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona basketball still has much to prove after win over Cal Poly

Tyler+Baker%2FThe+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AUA+freshman+forward+Aaron+Gordan+defends+against+Cal+Poly+on+Friday+at+the+McKale+Memorial+Center.++The+Wildcats+defeated+Cal+Poly+73-62.++
Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker/The Daily Wildcat UA freshman forward Aaron Gordan defends against Cal Poly on Friday at the McKale Memorial Center. The Wildcats defeated Cal Poly 73-62.

No. 5 Arizona escaped its season opener with a 73-62 victory at home Friday night.

Similar to all teams in November, the Wildcats still have a lot to work on and prove before their high ranking is justified.

“We’re a better free throw shooting team than we shot,” said head coach Sean Miller.

The UA left 16 potential points on the board Friday night as it finished the game 20-36 from the free throw line.

Arizona (1-0) jumped out to an early lead but quickly found itself in a tight battle midway into the first half.

Cal Poly (0-1), who lived and died by the three pointers last season, followed the same receipt against the UA by draining multiple three pointers to take a 19-17 lead at one point.

In response, the Wildcats increased their defensive perimeter pressure and attempted to force the Mustangs to look for baskets inside. The increase in defensive pressure appeared to work at first as Cal Poly struggled mightily to convert baskets inside the arch compared to outside.

Arizona received production from its young forwards, freshman Aaron Gordon and sophomore Brandon Ashley.

In his first college game, Gordon helped combat the Mustangs’ high three point percentage shooting with nine points and eight rebounds. Gordon finished the game with a double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“I was a little nervous at first,” Gordon said. “But I just told myself that basketball is basketball no matter what level you play at.”

Ashley showed an improved physical post presence and had nine points at the half to go along with five rebounds. Ashley fell one rebound short of also capturing a double-double as he finished the game with 11 points and 9 rebounds.

However, the Wildcats continued to shoot themselves in the foot with a low free throw percentage. In the first half the Wildcats were 8-18 on free throws.

“It was just an off night,” Gordon said about the free throw shooting. “Just got to take our time. Maybe spend a little more time in practice.”

The 44 percent free throw shooting and seven turnovers kept Cal Poly on the Wildcats’ heels throughout the first half. The Mustangs only trailed by three at halftime.

Arizona slowed down on the turnovers in the second half and once again picked up the defensive intensity to help propel the Wildcats to the 11 point victory.

“We let them get too many threes and didn’t play our best perimeter defense at times,” Ashley said. “When we really started to get up in them and play good defense, that’s Arizona basketball.”

The struggles at the free throw line, though improved from the first half, continued to haunt the highly ranked Wildcats in the second half.

But in the end Friday was a typical November college basketball game and just the first step in honoring the process.

“We thought it would be a tough game,” Miller said. “Hopefully we got the butterflies out of us and we get comfortable with ourselves.”

Post Game Locker Room Notes

In the Wildcats’ season opener guard Gabe York made his first career start. The 6-foot-3 sophomore appeared in 15 games last season and was put in Friday’s starting rotation in place of seven-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski, who started every game for Arizona in 2012-13.

With York in, the UA went with a smaller lineup to combat the Mustangs’ high volume three point shooting. That being said, Miller said following the game that Tarczewski was left out of the starting rotation because of a hip injury he had sustained a few days prior.

“[York] has worked really hard for this opportunity,” Miller said.

York finished Friday’s game with 12 points and five rebounds to go along with high energy.

Freshman guard Elliott Pitts has a sprained wrist and won’t play in the Wildcats’ Monday game against Long Beach State.

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