Throughout this week, there was one topic being discussed in the Pac-12: What will it take to knock off the undefeated No. 1 Arizona Wildcats? It is a simple question that provided varying responses from the league’s coaches. But 21 games into their season, that question remains unanswered as the Wildcats stole a 60-57 victory over the Stanford Cardinal, avoiding an upset on the 10th anniversary of that shot, and finding yet another and different way to win. Wednesday, in the latest rendition, the approach was to lean on their star, junior guard Nick Johnson, who led all players with 16 points on a night when the rest of the team shot a dismal 14-of-41 from the field. “[Nick Johnson] is a great leader. He’s the leader of our team, both on and off the court.” said Ryan Reynolds, Arizona’s director of basketball operations. “When the game is on the line, he’s the guy we go to and he’s not afraid of the moment.”
Earlier this week, Arizona State coach Herb Sendek was quoted in a piece by USA Today’s Nicole Auerbach exclaiming that Johnson was the team’s best and most talented player, but point guard T.J. McConnell was the guy who “puts it all together.” That quote was representative of last night’s game. McConnell, quiet and unassuming, led the Wildcats in nearly every offensive statistic through the midway point of the second half. The Wildcats were sloppy, outmatched in the post, but the Duquense transfer held it together in the hopes that one of the team’s stars would step up and make a play to ensure victory.