Rushed Reactions: #1 Arizona 84, #8 Gonzaga 61Posted by AMurawa on March 24th, 2014
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Three Key Takeaways.
- Points Off Turnovers. The first 11 turnovers in the game belonged to Gonzaga; Arizona scored 19 points off of those miscues on the way to building a 21-point first-half lead. There it is. For all practical purposes, that was the game. Turn the ball over and give the Wildcats six dunks (Aaron Gordon had four first-half dunks himself) and four layups before halftime and you should have no expectation that you’re going to be in the game. Clearly, Mark Few made limiting turnovers a high priority in the halftime locker room, but coming out of the break, they turned it over on the first two possessions. For the night, they turned it over 21times, leading to 31 points for the Wildcats. That’s the ballgame, right there.
- Arizona Halfcourt Offense = Questionable . To pick a nit, as good as the Wildcats were in forcing turnovers and getting out in transition, their halfcourt offense was so-so. They made just eight of 25 field goal attempts in the first half in the half-court and scored just 27 points on their 27 first half possessions that were not scores off turnovers. In the second half, they were much better, shooting 11-of-26 from the field, but again not really scoring in the halfcourt, averaging a shade under a point per possession in the second half. So, clearly, the key to stopping the Wildcats is forcing them into a half-court game and not allowing them to get points in transition, something that is far easier said than done.
- Highlight Reels Plays. Nick Johnson running down David Stockton and rejecting his breakaway layup. Gordon throwing down his now-patented reverse layup on the alley-oop. Gordon dunking over two Gonzaga big frontcourt players on an offensive rebound follow-up. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson providing a ridiculous in-your-face dunk in the halfcourt game. There are probably another half-dozen plays I’m forgetting that deserve mention as well, but the fact of the matter is, the Wildcats didn’t just beat the Zags by 23 points, they embarrassed them continuously throughout the game.
Star of the Game. Aaron Gordon, Arizona. At last glance, I think he had at least six dunks. Is that good? But beyond the SportsCenter plays, he was effective everywhere else too. He took on the challenge of checking Gonzaga big man Sam Dower and completely dominated him, holding him to just seven points on 12 field goal attempts. He would up with 18 points on only 10 field goal attempts, six boards, six assists and four steals. And he’s just so darn fun to watch. One of the prettiest things in college basketball this season is Gordon skying for a rebound, or maybe digging out a steal on the defensive end, turning up court and leading the break, only to wind up dishing a pretty dime to a teammate for an easy hoop. And we get to see him play more next week.
Sights & Sounds. Disappearance of the Pod People. One of the side effects of the pod system is that the winner of the first game isn’t dialed up to face the winner of the second game during the next weekend. So, for your average college basketball fan, you may not have a good reason to stick around and watch the second of two games on the weekend. And that’s what happened here. While there were certainly plenty of Arizona supporters in the arena to cheer on their Wildcats, many of the UCLA faithful from the first game decided to get out of dodge before the start of the second game and make their way back home. And, of course, as Arizona built up a 20-point first-half lead, many other “neutral” fans were encouraged to beat a hasty retreat as well.
Quotable. “I didn’t play my best today, but my teammates picked me up, they kept looking for me. Whatever. Even though we lost, we lost as a team.” — Gonzaga senior Sam Dower, in tears reflecting on his final game.
Quotable II. “It’s very special. We’re both the product of a great family, but in particular our dad being who he is, not only a great high school coach – maybe one of the best ever, at least in our opinion – but also a great dad. He gave us an understanding of the game, a love of the game, and I think we’re both probably coaches because of him.” — Sean Miller on is he and brother, Archie, both making the Sweet Sixteen.
What’s Next? Arizona will play San Diego State just up the road a piece in Anaheim on Thursday in what should be a loud and jam-packed environment. Gonzaga will not. Sam Dower, David Stockton and Drew Barham wrap up their careers, but they’ll rebuild with Kyle Wiltjer and freshman point guard Josh Perkins highlighting the next vintage of Zags.