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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona Wildcats win big over CSUN 86-68

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Rebecca Marie Sasnett

Arizona guard Elliott Pitts (24) and Arizona forward Craig Victor (3) contest CSUN guard Ajon Efferson (13) drive resulting in a steal during Arizona’s 37-23 lead against CSUN at McKale on Sunday. 

Despite committing 18 turnovers, Arizona men’s basketball cruised to a comfortable victory over Cal State Northridge 86-68. The No. 2 Wildcats (2-0) never trailed and led by as many as 29 points in the Maui Invitational opening round. However, the Matadors cashed in on Arizona’s turnovers to the tune of 23 points off those 18 turnovers.

“I think just [Sunday] night, there was a disconnect,” UA guard Elliott Pitts said about the turnovers. “We weren’t on the same page, but we’ll fix that.”

UA men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller said the UA’s foul-shooting and the turnovers were the biggest concerns, despite giving up 45 points to CSUN (0-2) in the second half, after holding the Matadors to 23 in the first.

“It’s very uncharacteristic for us to turn the ball over 18 times,” Miller said. “We have to correct that.”

Arizona made eight 3-pointers on Sunday after making four on Friday against Mount St. Mary’s.

“The way they chose to play us, they left the 3-point line open,” Miller said, “and we’re a better 3-point shooting team than we showed the other night.”

Forward Brandon Ashley had 13 points and three rebounds in his second game back from injury. Pitts had a career-high 10 points in 16 minutes.

Miller gave Pitts an “A” grade for both games over the weekend.

“He’s embraced his role,” Millers said. “We always try to define roles, and that can change as the season grows, but we really trust Elliott on defense. He plays with amazing effort; he can make shots.”

Arizona shot 54 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. CSUN was 42 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3.

Forward Stanley Johnson had 17 points in his second consecutive start of the season but only had one rebound.
“We’re on him right now to rebound better,” Miller said. “It just doesn’t make sense for him to not be more a factor on the glass.”

For the second game in a row, Wildcat Rondae Hollis-Jefferson didn’t start. He had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

“There’s nothing wrong with coming off the bench,” Hollis-Jefferson said.

Hollis-Jefferson did not start because he was held out of practice on Thursday with a shoulder injury as a precaution. He said he did practice on Saturday, though, and that his shoulder is better.

Miller said he thought Hollis-Jefferson was the Wildcats’ best player against the Matadors.

“When he’s in the game, so many good things are happening,” Miller said. “He’s playing with an incredible energy level, he does it on defense, he does it on offense.”

Miller compared Hollis-Jefferson to famous sixth man and former Wildcat Jason Terry, who came off the bench for the 1997 national championship and won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2009.

“The storyline for him is that he’s playing really, really well, and that’s great to see,” Miller said.

The Matadors made 22 baskets, just six less than Arizona, and as many three free throws as the Wildcats, 22, but only registered two 3-pointers.

“I always loved coming here and playing,” CSUN head coach Reggie Theus said. “Wherever they are now, they’ll be twice as good as that by the end of the season.”

The Wildcats return to action on Wednesday when they host UC Irvine (2-0) at 7 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.

“In my opinion, we’ll be playing one of the best teams in McKale [Center] that we play all season,” Miller said. “We’re going to jump up significantly in terms of the level of competition that we’re going to face here on Wednesday.”

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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