Arizona Wildcats making strides but need work


Arizona senior guard Gabe York launches a three-pointer that beats the shot clock before the end of the first half (Fox Soorts 1 video capture)

Arizona overcame a 10-point halftime deficit against UCLA on Friday to win 81-75.

Arizona almost blew a 16-point lead at halftime against USC tonight before pulling away late to an 86-78 victory at McKale Center.

“We really have a hard time playing a full 40 minutes,” Sean Miller told Brian Jeffries in the IMG Sports Network postgame show.

Arizona (21-5 overall, 9-4 in the Pac-12) is in the midst of a five-game winning streak after what could have been a demoralizing loss at home against Oregon.

The Wildcats achieved their second win against an RPI Top 50 team with the victory over No. 22 USC. The only other victory was against No. 35 Oregon State. The Beavers (14-9, 6-7) are riding the fence for the NCAA tournament.

Arizona also is tied with Oregon atop the conference standings thanks to the Ducks getting swept in the Bay area this weekend. More good news. But three weekends remain in the regular season, including a harrowing trip in two weeks to Colorado and Utah, and Miller knows anything less than the best from his team can be dangerous.

“Eventually this team’s season will end sooner than we want it to end if the details don’t improve,” Miller said in the postgame press conference.

Even Arizona’s bread-and-butter aspect to its game, its defensive rebounding, took a hit against the Trojans. The Wildcats led the nation entering the game, pulling down 78.3 percent of their defensive rebounding chances.

USC had 14 offensive rebounds off its 44 misses, which means Arizona pulled down only 68.2 percent of its defensive rebounding opportunities. The Wildcats’ defensive lapses on the perimeter occurred again in the second half with USC making 9 of its 18 attempts to allow the Trojans back in the game. Arizona’s perimeter defenders seemed a step slow getting to the shooters.

The Wildcats clamped down on defense after USC cut the lead to 70-68 with 6:45 remaining in the game. The Trojans missed eight consecutive attempts until Bennie Boatright ended the drought with a three-pointer with 36 seconds. By then Arizona was ahead 84-75 and back in command.

During that late cold spell, USC was still able to grab four offensive rebounds. The Trojans were unable to convert.

“They killed us on the offensive glass,” Miller said.

Miller also mentioned that sweeping UCLA and USC “you have to feel accomplished, and we do”.

The wins were very significant to the Pac-12 race and Arizona’s seeding in the NCAA tournament. Mark Tollefsen’s play off the bench against USC — 13 points and six rebounds — is something that can make opposing coaches cringe because he is a senior who has markedly improved since the start of the conference season.

We are about to discover with the Pac-12 race coming down the stretch if Arizona will go from feeling accomplished to actually accomplishing another Pac-12 title and going far beyond that.

Pac-12 Standings

Arizona 9-4 21-5
Oregon 9-4 20-6
Colorado 8-5 19-7
Utah 8-5 19-7
USC 7-5 18-7
California 7-5 17-8
Washington 7-6 15-10
Oregon State 6-7 15-9
UCLA 5-7 14-11
Stanford 5-7 12-11
Arizona State 4-9 14-12
Washington State 1-12 9-16


FG G Player Years
342 129 Salim Stoudamire 2001-05
318 136 Jason Gardner 1999-2003
272 123 Damon Stoudamire 1992-95
203 116 Gabe York 2012-present
193 129 Jason Terry 1996-99
193 139 Kyle Fogg 2008-12
191 129 Matt Othick 1989-92
190 100 Chase Budinger 2006-09
186 128 Khalid Reeves 1991-94
176 114 Miles Simon 1994-98


Player Years Points
Ryan Anderson 2011-16 1679
Kadeem Allen 2012-16 1638
Mark Tollefsen 2012-16 1232
Kaleb Tarczewski 2012-16 1116
Gabe York 2012-16 1016

Before Arizona
Player School Points
Kadeem Allen Hutchinson (Kan.) JC 1425
Ryan Anderson Boston College 1282
Mark Tollefsen San Francisco 1006 publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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