On Tuesday, the Wildcats will get another opportunity to win big. Arizona needed every second on Saturday to keep its non-conference and home game winning streaks alive. Miraculously, the Wildcats prevailed and kept their perfect record intact.
There shouldn’t be anywhere close to as much drama when Sean Miller’s No. 3 ranked squad hosts Utah Valley on Tuesday evening.
It may not be pretty and it certainly doesn’t bode well for the long-term health of Tucson’s population, but Arizona keeps finding ways to win. The UA, which has been ranked in the top 10 for 25 straight weeks, leads the nation with 35 consecutive regular season non-conference victories.
The streak should creep to 36 when the Wildcats take on a Utah Valley team that has lost their last three games. The Wolverines, who play in the WAC, average just over 59 points and that’s been against weak competition.
The ability to score efficiently is a prerequisite for success against Arizona. The Wildcats’ stifling defense will likely be too much for Utah Valley to overcome, even if the Wolverines were to put on their best offensive performance of the year.
Tenacious defense is what’s driven the Wildcats to success the past few seasons and it’s at work again. Down the stretch of regulation versus Gonzaga, Arizona came up with just enough key stops to send the game to OT.
TJ McConnell forced Kevin Pangos into committing a few costly turnovers, and the Wildcats finally found a stop to Gonzaga’s interior attack by double teaming Przemek Karnowski.
Needless to say, Utah Valley does not come close to the level of talent of Gonzaga.
The one name to remember for the Wolverines is Mitch Bruneel. The 6’5 senior leads the team with 12.6 ppg and is second in rebounds.
After Bruneel, there’s a considerable drop-off, especially in the paint where Arizona will have a decisive advantage with Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Dusan Ristic at backup center.
Meanwhile, Utah Valley has only one player above 6-8 and collectively pulls down 30 boards a game – just 325th nationally.
Ample credit needs to be given to the Arizona offense as well. Ashley in particular stepped up by knocking down a pair of threes and a handful of deep two-pointers.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Elliott Pitts are also exceeding expectations; Jackson-Cartwright with his poise in tough situations and Pitts with his newfound aggressiveness on both sides of the ball.
Even on days like Saturday when Stanley Johnson, Gabe York, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson all struggled, Arizona proved that they can still close out close games.