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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona finds identity in win against Oakland

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

Arizona’s 85-73 victory against Oakland University in McKale Center on Tuesday night was more than a win against a solid Summit League squad.

It goes beyond Solomon Hill’s best performance in an Arizona uniform, or Kyle Fogg scoring his 1,000th point as a Wildcat.

Tuesday night’s game laid the foundation for the style of basketball that Arizona should employ for the remainder of the season.

The Golden Grizzlies came to Tucson averaging 80.2 points per game, and it was up to the Wildcats to keep up with them.

But Arizona more than hung with the Golden Grizzlies — the Wildcats discovered their offensive identity along the way.

Arizona’s built like a fastbreak team. Its tallest starter is 6-foot-7. Its biggest deficiencies are on the glass and in the paint.

Nick Johnson is one of the best transition players in the conference. Likewise, Josiah Turner thrives with the ball in his hands on the break.

Solomon Hill can take the ball coast to coast or finish on the wing. Kevin Parrom’s at his best when he’s off and running. The list goes on and on.

And for one of the first times all season, the Wildcats finally got to showcase their best skills against Oakland.

Nick Johnson hammered home an alley-oop from Turner. Johnson found Turner multiple times in transition. Hill got in on the action grabbing the board and pushing the ball for an And 1 on the other end.

Arizona’s break-neck pace opened the court and allowed the Wildcat to shoot 55.6 percent from the field. They had the spacing to drill 44.4 percent of their triples.

For a team lacking a go-to scorer in the half court and the size to pound down low, this is the perfect formula.

UA head coach Sean Miller has the depth to give his players a breather when the pace gets too high to handle. He has big men like Angelo Chol who can get up and down as fast as any big in the country.

This is Arizona’s calling. With this roster, this is the pace the Wildcats need to play at. They found that out the hard way against Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs forced them into a grind-it-out pace that led Miller and his players to re-evaluate their strategy. Of course, Miller made it clear that it’s impossible to run when defensive rebounding is an issue, but he said Arizona is “working on” playing at the same pace it did against Oakland.

He said “picking up full court and really pushing the ball off misses” could become a staple of this team in the near future.

His players concurred.

“I think we play much better just like that,” said senior Jesse Perry. “We’re just a better team overall. I think we just looked at everything once we go tot practice at how slow our pace has been. We wanted to be a more up-tempo team today.”

The Wildcats let it all hang out on Tuesday, which is crucial for a young and inexperienced team. There was no thinking involved — just get the ball and go. Simply play the game that they’ve been playing all their lives.

On Tuesday night against Reggie Hamilton and Oakland, it worked to perfection. McKale Center fans picked up free tacos from Jack in the Box with Arizona scoring over 80 points.

If the Wildcats can continue to play at that pace, Jack in the Box may want to rethink its marketing ploy.

—Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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