Rushed Reactions: #1 Arizona 68, #16 Weber State 59Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 21st, 2014
Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion. Three Key Takeaways.
- Arizona Size and Athleticism. Straight mismatch in this department. Weber State came out confident and hardworking, and none of it really mattered, as Kaleb Tarczewski, Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson rejected shots (they wound up with 12 blocks, many of them of the older-brother-toying-with-kid-brother-in-the-driveway variety), threw down effortless jams, and generally harassed the underdog into a frustrating 40 minutes. While the athleticism gap will tighten for Arizona the further they go in this Tournament, there aren’t going to be many teams that are among the same elite class of athletes as Sean Miller’s club.
- Davion Berry vs. Nick Johnson. You may not have heard of him much, but Davion Berry can ball. Despite being harassed by Nick Johnson into a poor shooting day from the field (he missed eight of his first nine attempts from the field before winding up 5-of-20, with four of those connections coming from deep), Berry found ways to manufacture points, getting to the line to earn 10 of his 24 points from the charity stripe. And as he saw his shot drop through from the free throw line, his confidence grew. He knocked in 19 points in the second half and was instrumental in leading the Weber State charge. As for Johnson, his harassing defense visibly frustrated Berry early. Johnson hassled Berry when he had the bounce, chased him through screens, and challenged every attempt he put up. And what’s more, Johnson does his work with a smile, seemingly enjoying the pain he’s inflicting on his prey; he’ll talk here and there, but his smile probably does more to gall his opponent than any words he could say.
- Second-Half Fouls. Arizona is not a team known to commit a lot of fouls (on the year its defensive free throw rate, comparing the number of free throws attempts to the number of field goal attempts the team allows, ranks in the upper sixth of the nation), but after a dominating first-half defensive performance, the ‘Cats were whistled for 13 second-half personals, allowing Weber State to score 14 points from the line after the break, in large part fueling the underdog’s run to a mere nine-point final margin.
Star of the Game. Aaron Gordon, Arizona. He’s an absolute athletic freak who had to have NBA personnel types in attendance intrigued. Aside from spectacular alley-oop reverse-dunk finishes that he made look effortless, Gordon stuck with his man defensively, collected rebounds by the barrel, and on the offensive end of the court made deft passes to teammates for easy hoops. One sequence in particular was worth noting: Gordon harassed Weber State forward Joel Bolomboy into a bad shot, which Gordon then rejected. From there, Gordon recovered the ball, pushed the ball upcourt and found Tarczewski for a dunk on the secondary break. You can probably count on one hand (if not one finger) the number of people in college basketball that could have made a similar play. Sure, his jumpshot and free throws are a disaster, but the guy can do so many other things even if those two parts of his game never get fixed. He’s still a special talent.
Sights & Sounds. McKale West. The fans never really got into this one, in part because the outcome was never seriously in doubt, but this was clearly a heavily-partisan crowd in support of Arizona, turning Viejas Arena into a home court advantage for the Wildcats. Come Sunday when the Wildcats face a more competitive challenge, expect Arizona to get a boost from the crowd.
Quotable. “He’s a great player, really scores in a variety of ways. We were just battling the whole game. They run him off a lot of ball screens, so it was fun chasing him. I fouled him a little bit too much, but he’s a great scorer.” — Nick Johnson, on defending Davion Berry.
Wildcard. #1 Seed challenged. Arizona became the 14th #1 seed to win its round of 64 game over a #16 seed by fewer than 10 points. Of the 13 previous #1-seeds to be so challenged, none have ever wound up winning the national championship.
What’s Next? Arizona moves on to face the winner of Gonzaga and Oklahoma State in the round of 32 on Sunday and will need to put together a more complete game to come away with a win in that one. As for Weber State, three members of this year’s eight-man rotation, including leading scorers Berry and Kyle Tresnak, but Randy Rahe and the Wildcats will rebuild around freshman sharp-shooter Jeremy Senglin and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Joel Bolomboy, and again likely be among the favorites in their conference.