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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Hail to the victors: Arizona crushes Michigan 80-53

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Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat

For the second game in a row, No. 3 Arizona men’s basketball blew out the Wolverines, but this time, it was Michigan. The UA (10-0) beat UM (6-4) 80-53 on Saturday afternoon at home to take its 28th straight home game and 37th nonconference regular season game in a row.

“Today was our best performance of the season,” UA head coach Sean Miller said. “It was the culmination of a very good defense, which we’ve shown to this point, but also better, improved offense.”

The 27-point margin is Michigan’s worst loss of the season, with the second worst being five points to then-No. 12 Villanova.

“I think our team felt like they were kind of cornered in,” UA forward Stanley Johnson said. “They had a couple losses, but we respected them more and thought they were going to come out and just really try to get a great win in McKale [Center].”

Michigan only led for 14 seconds, a much shorter time than Utah Valley or Gardner-Webb did.

“Although we’ve won games, we haven’t necessarily started the game with confidence where you look out there and you kind of feel it right away,” Miller said about their slow starts. “It feels like it’s taken some time to unfold, and we’re addressing that.”

At halftime, the UA honored the Arizona football team, and football head coach Rich Rodriguez addressed the crowd. The 2014 Pac-12 Coach of the Year coached at Michigan before they fired him.

Rodriguez didn’t mention Michigan, though.

“He stopped in unexpectedly before our game and said, ‘Good luck’; I could tell he had a twinkle in his eye,” Miller said about Rodriguez. “Honestly, that’s not for me to talk about, other than we respect and appreciate Rich and are glad that he’s at Arizona, as I know all of us are.”

Johnson scored 17 points and had seven rebounds. Guard Gabe York scored 15 points, and forward Brandon Ashley scored 10 and had six rebounds.

Center Kaleb Tarczewski scored 15 points, was 5-for-6 from the field, grabbed seven rebounds and had a block.

“We always utilized his talent on defense; tonight, he did it on both ends,” Miller said.

Michigan shot 35 percent from the field, 27 percent from deep and 62 percent from the charity stripe. Arizona shot 58 percent from the field, 35 percent from behind the arc and 50 percent from the free-throw line.

Miller said his concern is foul shooting — that the Wildcats need to shoot it as well as they do in practice.

“Our free-throw shooting has really dipped,” Miller said. “We have some guys, I call it kind of like that ‘popcorn disease,’ where when you don’t smell the popcorn, you make all your free throws, and then all of a sudden when it smells like popcorn, game day, you can’t make one.”

The Wildcats limited the Wolverines to 19 field goals, seven in the first half. Michigan averaged 70.7 points per game going into Saturday’s contest.

“We’re a very good defensive team; I don’t know that we’re along those lines of last season,” Miller said. “Last season, we just took that next step, but we’ll see. Maybe we can develop into that. We don’t know yet; it’s still mid-December.”

Tarczewski said the Wildcats’ defense is not at the level where it was last year, but they have a lot of potential.

“We wanted to have a game where we proved what kind of defensive team we were,” Tarczewski said. “We haven’t really done that so far this season.”

The UA had 42 points in the paint and Michigan had 16, and the Wildcats out-rebounded the Wolverines 40-26.

Michigan has now lost three in a row and four of its last six. Saturday was its first true road game.

“It’s always hard to travel across the country and play an away game,” Miller said. “I felt like we played a team that’s young, but Michigan will hit their stride and continue to develop.”

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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