Victor Shamas, PHD
Here’s a look at what the Wildcats displayed on the court in Saturday’s huge win over #8 Utah.
We really stymied Utah. Delon Wright scored seven quick points at the beginning of the game and then just 3 more the rest of the way. Rondae and TJ took turns on him, and they just shut him down. Loveridge scored zero points in the first half. He hit two three’s in the second half to make things a little interesting, but most of what he did was too little, too late. Poeltl was a non-factor with 6 pt and 4 rebounds after he just dominated ASU.
What a dominant performance! We outrebounded them 40-19. The most impressive stat is that we got 17 offensive boards that led to 18 points. That was, in my view, the difference in the game. Miller had been very critical of this aspect of his team’s play. All the returning big men have fewer offensive rebounds this year compared to last. But that just might be changing. Utah is a physical team and we out-muscled them by a longshot. And shockingly, both teams had the same number of fouls (although Kaleb fouled out).
All five starters produced, and Ristic gave the team solid minutes (4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 blocked shot, and some noticeably better defense). TJ scored most of his 16 points in the first half. Stanley scored all of his 18 in the second half. The ball movement was crisp for the most part.
Johnson got 18 points and 9 rebounds, all in the second half. What happens if he strings together an entire game like that? He is a good college player about to turn the corner and become a really GREAT one. The guy can take over a game more than any Wildcat player I’ve ever seen. That is saying something, because I’ve watched Arenas, Jefferson, Derrick Williams, and Nick Johnson, just to name a few.
Pitts made a spectacular drive and dunk in the game that made we wonder: Where the heck did that come from? I hope he has more of that in him. It almost looked like Stanley and Rondae were rubbing off on him. Parker Jackson-Cartwright did not have a productive game from a statistical perspective but he had zero turnovers against a very tough defensive team. And Ristic has come a long way. It’s great to be able to get 13 quality minutes from him on a night when Kaleb was in foul trouble for much of the game.
The way we drove through the Utah defense made you think we were playing an inferior defensive team. But Utah came in ranked 8th in the country and is considered to have one of the elite defenses in the nation. Meanwhile, on the defensive end, Rondae is our team leader. He turns up the defensive intensity and inspires his teammates to do the same. He has just about guaranteed himself a top spot in the NBA draft as long as he stays healthy. All of our wings and bigs hit the boards. We had five guys with 5 or more rebounds in the game, with Johnson leading the way.
He hasn’t looked right lately, especially on the offensive end. But none of that was apparent yesterday. He had 14 points and 8 rebounds (5 offensive), shot 6-9 from the field, and had one monster block that made the ESPN highlights.
This is the one criticism I would have of our performance. Four guys combined for 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists in 51 minutes of play. Ristic carried most of that load. We have to get more production out of our bench. Pitts has to look for his shot more.