There’s an old axiom in basketball that says “You can’t teach height.” In other words, if you don’t have size on your roster, there’s not much that can be done until recruiting cures the shortcoming.
In the meantime, teams like the Arizona Wildcats are taking advantage of the situation.
And that’s just what happened last night as Pac-12 rival Arizona State struggled to deal with Arizona’s size and found it too much to handle. The Cats, behind the work of their two 7-footers, dominated in the paint and combined that with 57 percent shooting to literally run ASU off the court in front of a home crowd of 14,644 at McKale Center in Tucson.
The Wildcats were up as much as 41 points in the final minutes before closing out the 99-61 win.
Arizona’s 7-foot senior center, Kaleb Tarczewski, pulled down 10 rebounds in the first half – one more than he had in the entire previous game against USC. And the Cats nearly doubled ASU’s total output on the boards, finishing the game with a 50-26 advantage.
You could see this one coming from early on, as Arizona collected 24 points in the paint to six for the Sun Devils in the first half. By game’s end, the margin was an astounding 52-14.
Arizona started out cold from the perimeter, missing its first five shots from behind the arc. That allowed ASU to work its way back from an early deficit to take its first lead of the game at 20-19 with 7:39 to go in the first half. At that point, things still looked hopeful, even though ASU was clearly over-matched by the No. 12-ranked Wildcats.
But Arizona shrugged off the ASU threat and went on a 19-4 run. By the time intermission arrived, the Cats had a 14-point lead.
They stretched the lead to 26 when the scoreboard read 28-54 and 15 minutes still to play. From there, they coasted to one of the most lopsided wins in the long history of the Territorial Cup basketball rivalry.
Part of the reason the margin was so large was ASU’s inability to mount much of an offense. The Devils shot 32.3 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line.
Arizona had five players in double figures, led by 7-foot sophomore Dusan Rustic, who netted 16 points before fouling out with 1:40 left to play. Four ASU players climbed into double digits, with juniors Andre Spight and Obinna Oleka leading the way with 15 apiece.
UA head coach Sean Miller also had praise after the game for his sophomore guard, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who had seven assists and zero turnovers, and played a solid defensive game. “He’s playing the best basketball of his career,” said the 47-year-old coach who’s in his seventh year guiding the program.
The Wildcats got off to a shaky start in conference play, losing two of their first three games. But they have played through more than their share of injuries to key players, have won their last six games, and appear to be peaking at just the right time as the post-season is fast approaching.
The win keeps Arizona a half-game ahead of No. 16 Oregon at the top of the Pac-12 standings.
“We stayed with it,” explained Miller, “and right now I hope we can continue to build and grow and play our best basketball down the stretch…I know the last three games have been a good starting point for that to happen.”
And for a sure sign they’re on the right track, how about a 38-point victory over your fiercest rival?
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)