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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Gonzaga exploits Arizona’s weaknesses

Mike+Christy+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Arizona+Wildcats+mens+basketball+team+hosted+the+USC+Trojans+in+a+Pacific-10+Conference+game+Saturday+Jan.+29%2C+2011%2C+in+McKale+Center+in+Tucson%2C+Ariz.+The+Wildcats+rolled+to+an+82-73.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team hosted the USC Trojans in a Pacific-10 Conference game Saturday Jan. 29, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats rolled to an 82-73.

Arizona’s weaknesses heading into this season were clear-cut: size and lack of a go-to scorer.

Through 10 games the Wildcats more or less got by with a small lineup and balanced scoring. But not Saturday.

Gonzaga used its size, physicality and suffocating defense to manhandle Arizona on its way to a 71-60 victory over the Wildcats in Seattle, Wash.

Arizona had no answer for the Bulldogs’ interior presence as Gonzaga outrebounded UA 40-27 and hauled in 14 offensive boards. Power forward Elias Harris was the main beneficiary, scoring a career high 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds.

Harris lived in the paint as he scored off of a handful of put-backs, while also drilling both of his triples. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound junior made easy work of undersized forwards Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill as he catapulted the Bulldogs to an early 14-0 lead 5:17 into the first half.

Arizona couldn’t get closer than 13 for the rest of the half as the Bulldogs took a 39-21 lead into halftime. The Wildcats’ lack of a go-to scorer and their reliance on three-point shooting doomed them in the first 20 minutes of play.

Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry shot a combined 4-for-18 in the half, Arizona made only 31.1 percent of its field goals while attempting only one free throw. The Wildcats drilled one of nine well-contested triples and their missing scoring punch became more evident than ever.

With an inability to defend the paint and rebound, as well as having no No. 1 option on offense, the Wildcats were in a world of hurt heading into the second half. CBS showed a clip of Sean Miller’s halftime coaches meeting and he said “We have a couple guys scared.”

Arizona looked just as fearful early in the second half. After a Robert Sacre offensive rebound and dunk, the Bulldogs led 43-23 with 18:04 remaining.

But after chipping away by getting defensive stops and scoring in transition the Wildcats cut the deficit to 50-44 with 2:44 remaining. Arizona outscored Gonzaga by 16 during that 15:20 stretch as UA’s offense finally came alive.

Fogg, who finished the game with 14 points and four rebounds, shot 6-of-7 during that stretch.
Both Perry, who made a bucket and a big three in the second half, and NIck Johnson, who scored 13 points and tallied five assists on the night, gave the Wildcats a lift and Arizona had a glimmer of hope.

But Gonzaga locked down defensively and Arizona missed two of its next three shots, committed a turnover and couldn’t complete the comeback. While the Wildcats’ effort during the last 15 minutes was admirable, the first half blunder will make that a distant memory.

The Bulldogs exploited Arizona’s major limitations and laid out the blueprint on how to defeat the Wildcats. Arizona is now 7-4 and will take on Oakland University in Tucson on Tuesday.

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