Arizona downs Northwestern State for 42nd straight home win
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) With senior leader Ryan Anderson out with a sore ankle, No. 12 Arizona got timid and bogged down offensively. It was up to Gabe York to preserve the nation's longest home winning streak.
York scored 10 of his 18 points in a key second-half spurt, and Arizona beat undermanned Northwestern State 61-42 on Sunday night.
''Nobody else at crucial times in the second half was capable of making a perimeter shot,'' Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ''We were in a drought where, `I don't want to shoot it' and, 'Neither do I.'
''With Gabe, he wants to shoot it and has great confidence.''
Allonzo Trier, starting in Anderson's place, added 10 points for the Wildcats, who overcame a subpar shooting effort in their 42nd straight home win. They also moved to 4-0 for the sixth straight season.
''Not a fun game to watch or play in or coach,'' Miller said. ''We're thrilled we were able to win by 19 points, in particular without Ryan. For us to be able to rest him today is far more important than anything else, big picture-wise.''
Anderson, who sat as a precaution after tweaking his right ankle Thursday against Boise State, proved his worth in his absence.
''It was eye-opening, just some of the things defensively he brings and offensively he brings,'' York said. ''It was different out there today.''
York hit two 3-pointers, a nifty layup in traffic and two free throws in a 12-4 run that put Arizona ahead 54-36 with 5 minutes left.
Zeek Woodley had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Demons (0-4), who have struggled offensively since losing senior point guard Jalan West to a season-ending knee injury.
That led coach Mike McConathy to make an abrupt switch. The nation's top scoring team from a year ago brought out the old-fashioned, slow-down weave and it surprised Arizona.
''We felt like we needed to shorten the shot clock against a very talented and well-coached team,'' McConathy said. ''I felt like we played well, with the exception of having 18 turnovers.''
The Wildcats failed to find an offensive rhythm despite a big height advantage. A nearly five-minute scoring drought allowed Northwestern State to get within 42-32 with 11:10 left.
York then had a driving layup and a 3 on consecutive possessions and Arizona slowly pulled away despite missing 17 of 22 3-pointers and 12 free throws in the finale of a four-game homestand.
Picked to finish second in the Southland Conference, the Demons have been reeling since losing West in the final minute of their opener at Mississippi.
Three days later, Northwestern State lost to LSU-Alexandria of the NAIA as West, who led the NCAA in assists for the nation's top scoring team last season, prepared for surgery.
The Demons' high-paced offense was scrapped without their 20-points-per-game scorer in the teams' first meeting.
But their defense kept them in it as Arizona shot 37 percent from the field as it looks forward to Anderson's likely return this week.
Northwestern State: F Colby Koontz (concussion) missed his fourth straight game. ... The Demons have road games remaining vs. Auburn, Arkansas and No. 20 Baylor.
Arizona: The Wildcats' 71st win since the 2013-14 season matches Kentucky for most in the country. . Point guards Kadeem Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright combined for 11 assists and no turnovers.
The crowd erupted in applause when Dusan Ristic hit a routine free throw halfway through the first half. The reason? Arizona started 1 of 8 from the foul line and finished 12 of 24. Ristic had nine points and 10 rebounds.
The injured West sat between the coaches on the Northwestern State bench, shouting instructions and chatting with players during timeouts. The school will appeal to the NCAA for West to be granted a sixth year of eligibility.
Northwestern State: Hosts Division III Louisiana College on Wednesday.
Arizona: Thursday vs. Santa Clara in the Wooden Legacy at Fullerton, California.