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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona men’s basketball defeats Cal Poly Pomona 67-51 behind defensive charge

Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat

McKale Center was rocking as the No. 2 Arizona men’s basketball team took the court on Sunday before its lone exhibition game of the season. The lights dimmed, and the crowd erupted as the past and present of Arizona basketball was on display.

Despite the energy, the product on the floor came out flat with a sputtering offensive attack before defeating Cal Poly Pomona 67-51. At one point, the Wildcats were shooting just 5-20 from the field for 25 percent. With the Broncos in a matchup 2-3 zone, the Wildcats looked disjointed, and UA men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller was visibly upset, leading the coach to call a timeout just 3:08 in to the action.

“First 15 minutes of the game, I thought we had a burden on us,” Miller said. “In terms of anxiety, lack of confidence, lack of sureness — a lot of the things I alluded to a week earlier. You didn’t sense that we came out as a team filled with confidence.”

The Wildcats didn’t get above the 20-point plateau until there were less than two minutes left in first half, when guard Gabe York hit a jumper to put the UA up 21-19.

Arizona’s stifling defense came alive in the latter portion of the first half, and the Wildcats went on a 14-0 run to close out the half. Leading that charge was York, who started over Stanley Johnson. York ended the game with 12 points, nine of which came in the first half.

Continuing themes from last season, the Wildcats dominated both the points in the paint battle and the rebounding margin. The starting front court of small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, power forward Brandon Ashley and center Kaleb Tarczewski combined for 32 points and 16 rebounds, doing the majority of their damage in the paint as Arizona outscored Cal Poly Pomona 44-18 down-low.

Ashley played 29 minutes and was Arizona’s best player for most of the first half. Miller said having him get game action against someone other than his teammates was critical.

“If you’re Brandon Ashley, the last that he played in a competitive game with officials in front of a crowd, would have been Feb. 1,” Miller said. “There’s nothing like getting back out there and playing. … He’s not anywhere near where I think he’ll be as he keeps moving forward.”

While the front court trio combined to play well, starting point guard T.J. McConnell was the heart and soul of the Arizona roster. McConnell, who’s entering his final season as a Wildcat, displayed all the energy, hustle and peskiness that have made him a fan favorite.

The senior finished the exhibition with just two points, but had 11 of Arizona’s 23 assists and added seven rebounds. After the game, McConnell said he doesn’t care if his assists are high as long as the team comes out on the winning side of the box score.

“Obviously, I can’t predict the future, but it doesn’t matter what assists I have,” McConnell said. “Hopefully they’re high, but, if not, it doesn’t matter as long as we come out with the win.”

On Sunday, that was indeed the case.


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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