With their backs against the wall in a hostile environment, the Wildcats took a huge step in establishing their identity as a team this season. Though everything seemed to go wrong in the first half, Arizona showed a toughness and tenacity that became infectious on their way to a comeback victory at Gonzaga.
The win will be a feather in Sean Miller’s cap come March, as Gonzaga figures to earn a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament. In a year with fewer marquee opponents on the schedule, that win will be very important for the team’s postseason resume.
But more importantly, the win showed this inexperienced group who they are. Rather than throwing in the towel when the game appeared it could get out of hand, Arizona clawed and scratched their way back into the game behind inspired play from their leaders.
That kind of relentlessness will define the character of this team. With a core that hasn’t played together that long, it’s not always going to be pretty. But the ability to fight through the rough stretches will be the identity of this team as they gel on the court. Even if Arizona takes a few punches, they’ve shown that they are the type of team that can get off the mat and throw a few haymakers of their own.
It’s important to remember just how new this group of players is, with multiple freshmen and transfers in the mix, as well as returners that are learning expanded roles. Inevitably, that’s going to result in growing pains. But if the Wildcats can latch on to the attitude they displayed against Gonzaga, that identity will carry them far as they try to achieve their potential.
If you missed Arizona’s brilliant second half performance or simply want to relive the comeback, check out the full game in the video below.