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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Arizona makes statement victory over Gonzaga

Mike Christy
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) gets tripped up in the pressure defense of Arizona Wildcats guard Kadeem Allen (5) and Arizona Wildcats guard Elliott Pitts (24) during the second half of the No. 19 Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 13 Gonzaga Bulldogs men’s NCAA college basketball game at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. Arizona used a second-half comeback to win 68-63. Photo taken Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

The Cardiac Cats are at it again.

After a poor first half in which the Wildcats trailed by as many as 14 points, No. 19 Arizona men’s basketball finished the game on a tear, defeating No. 13 Gonzaga 68-63 in the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash.

The Wildcats cut the lead to a 10 point deficit at halftime after Allonzo Trier, who started for the first time in his young career, scored eight straight points to bring them back into the game.

The Wildcats shot 32 percent from the field and only 16 percent from deep during a first half that saw Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer drop 20 points.

Trier’s spark for the team could not have come at a better time. He made multiple tough shots while driving to the basket, and did enough to keep the Wildcats in the game.

Coming to Arizona known for his shot creation and scoring ability, Trier proved why Miller should keep him in the starting lineup going forward.

The second half saw senior guard Gabe York catch fire, as he scored 14 of his 18 points in the half, including four big three pointers to bring the Wildcats back into the game. Ryan Anderson added 11 and Trier tallied six more as Arizona improved their shooting to 50 percent from the field and outscored the Bulldogs 40-25 in the second half.

“We won every single four minute war in second half,” Trier said.

Sean Miller and company came out firing out of halftime. Having made the adjustments to Wiltjer and the rest of the Bulldogs, Arizona was able to climb back into the game before eventually taking the lead for good.

Arizona is clearly a second half team, and it is starting to become more obvious about which roles belong to whom on the team.

York, Anderson and Trier are the definite scorers on the team, and showed their confidence cannot be shaken by a poor half. Combining for 31 of the 40 second half points, these three score in bursts and quickly.

Kadeem Allen and Mark Tollefsen are the better defenders on the team. Allen forced Josh Perkins into committing five turnovers as well as just 2-9 shooting. Tollefsen and Elliot Pitts took turns on defense against Wiltjer in the second half, only letting him score 13 points in the second half on 6-15 shooting.

Dusan Ristic stepped in nicely for the injured Kaleb Tarczewski. Ristic had his hands full with Domantas Sabonis, but had some impressive defensive plays and finished the game with nine points and four rebounds.

“We’re a really together team. We had a lot of faith that we could pull through in the second half,” Trier said.

Arizona had a lot of questions surrounding them after the early loss to the Providence Friars last weekend and rightfully so.

But with their first true road game against a tough, ranked opponent, Arizona’s early win over Gonzaga is a big statement for this squad.

As the season continues on, look for Arizona to work on becoming a better-rounded team for the entire 40 minutes. But the resilience this team showed should be encouraging to fans and coaches as this team has proven they are not one to quit regardless of the score.

Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.

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