Instant Analysis: Arizona dominates #20 Colorado 75-54
Winless in true road games this season and facing a three-game road trip beginning next weekend in Tempe, Arizona had to win at home on Saturday. They not only won. They dominated visiting No. 20 Colorado, 75-54.
The Wildcats set the tone in the first half and followed its game plan of attacking aggression for the full 40 minutes to earn their first win over a nationally ranked team this season.
Arizona (13-5, 3-2 Pac-12) used a decisive 24-5 scoring run to erase an early five-point deficit and lead 29-15 with just under four minutes to play in the first half. They would do enough from there to lead 34-23 at halftime. Colorado (14-4, 3-2 Pac-12) did limit Arizona to 43.8 percent shooting in the opening frame. However, the Wildcats did the Buffaloes one better, holding its opponent to just 32.0 percent.
Perhaps the biggest early sign of success was Arizona’s 21-13 rebounding advantage after 20 minutes. Once the final horn sounded, the Wildcats owned the Buffaloes on the boards by a wide 39-25 margin.
Arizona, for the second game in a row, got meaningful production off the bench. Max Hazzard, who knocked down six treys against Utah, remained in form with 3-for-6 shooting from deep against Colorado. Reserve forward Ira Lee also contributed valuable minutes, finishing with six points and seven rebounds. Impressively, Lee’s points came on two low-post, poster dunks, with another finish around the rim following an offensive rebound.
Nico Mannion was steady with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and just one turnover. Same for Zeke Nnaji who finished with 12 points and game-high 12 rebounds. However, the player of the game was Dylan Smith. The senior guard finished with 13 points, 4 rebounds, and three assists. While not flashy, Smith made several big buckets, including two transition 3-Pointers, that helped the Wildcats protect their large lead every time Colorado was threatening to claw its way back into the game.
McKinley Wright led Colorado with 15 points and five assists.
How Arizona Won?
Arizona won because of its ability to finish defensive possessions with rebounds. They blew out Colorado because of their ability to crash the offensive glass. Arizona outrebounded a Colorado team that also emphasizes defense and rebounding, 39-25. On the offensive end of the floor, the Wildcats held a 13-7 rebounding advantage.
Toughness. There’s no denying that Arizona has been soft at times this season. Not so much on defense, but on the offensive end of the floor where players have a tendency to shy away from contact. During this successful two-game home stand that saw the Wildcats rout both Utah and Colorado, Arizona was embracing contact on both ends of the floor. Defensively, Arizona was opportunistic in applying double teams, was bodying up the Buffs in and around the paint, and were hustling to help for the full 40 minutes. Colorado would finish the game a woeful 18-for-49 shooting (36.7%) overall, and just 7-for-23 (30.4%) from behind the 3-Point arc.
Player of the Game
Arizona’s Dylan Smith was excellent. Although the statistics are not eye-popping, Smith found ways to impact the game on both ends of the floor. For some strange reason, when Smith plays well Arizona plays very well. That proved true this weekend with big wins over both Utah and Colorado.
Stat of the Game
A key to victory entering the game was whether or not Arizona could score in transition and not allow the usually stiff Colorado defense from getting set up. That happened. In the first half, Arizona held a 13-0 advantage in fast break points. For the game, the Wildcats would outscore the Buffs on the break, 18-6.
Arizona visits rival Arizona State on January 25 in Tempe. Tip time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MST. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.