Welcome back Brandon Ashley. The junior made his return to college basketball in spectacular fashion, leading Arizona to a 78-55 win over Mount St Mary’s behind a career high 21 points on 9-10 field goal shooting.
Ashley was brilliant on the interior, but at times Arizona looked stagnant and struggled on offense. However, a few big runs from the Wildcats ultimately put away a solid, pesky Mount St. Mary’s team that figures to be in the NCAA Tournament this year.
Not only did Ashley pace the Wildcats on offense, he showed the fiery on court demeanor that makes him a leader of the team. It was that energy that woke Arizona up from a sluggish start and created separation when the game appeared to get close.
Despite the slow start to the game, Arizona led for over 39 minutes and never trailed.
Outside of Ashley’s spark, sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson rocked the rims with a flurry of highlight reel dunks that need to be on ESPN’s Top 10, if they want to claim any credibility. Hollis-Jefferson finished with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in only 21 minutes off the bench.
Arizona also got a nice lift from Parker Jackson-Cartwright, a freshman point guard who clearly has a grasp of the game. Jackson-Cartwright scored 8 points and 2 assists in just 11 minutes, including two timely three pointers and some solid defense.
With Jackson-Cartwright playing well, the Wildcats appear to be well off at the point guard position as starter TJ McConnell had yet another brilliant passing game with 7 assists in 28 minutes. McConnell also chipped in 4 steals and 5 rebounds in a typically well-rounded game from what people will realize is the nation’s best point guard.
Elliot Pitts also got some extended run with 17 minutes. His lone field goal was a three pointer, but his smart play and good decision making kept him on the court. If both Pitts and Jackson-Cartwright can maintain their level of play, Arizona’s bench will be in very good shape.
Junior Kaleb Tarczewski put in a great performance as well, double-doubling with 10 points and 10 rebounds to go along with 3 blocks. Tarczewski, Ashley, McConnell, and Gabe York all led Arizona with 28 minutes played.
Next up for Arizona is a Sunday matchup with Cal State Northridge at 6 pm MST.