SALT LAKE CITY – Parker Jackson-Cartwright sees himself as a gear-shifter of sorts, which is coming in pretty handy for the Arizona Wildcats this season.
“I think my job is to change the pace when I’m in the game,” Jackson-Cartwright said after Arizona beat North Dakota 100-82 on Thursday. “If I’m walking the ball up at 5-8, 5-10, I’m not using my strengths. I’m not effective. I’m not really valuable. So when I get in I try to play really fast and help my teammates get shots.”
That worked well on Thursday against the breakneck speed of North Dakota, which plays with the 34th fastest tempo in the nation, according to Kenpom. PJC had eight points, on 3-for-4 shooting, five rebounds and four assists to two turnovers.
But on Saturday, the Wildcats may have to rev it down quite a bit against Saint Mary’s, which runs an-almost-polar-opposite tempo that ranks 350th out of 361 teams.
PJC is confident about that, too. Asked about the expected change in pace Saturday, he said:
“Everyone’s different,” he said. “That’s what makes this team so unique. I think we can switch our tempos fast and slow. It’s not about the pace. It’s about doing what makes us good all year.”
Something else Saint Mary’s does differently: The Gaels make 39.9 percent of their 3-point shots, the 16th best mark in the nation.
That’s a little concerning for UA coach Sean Miller after the Wildcats allowed North Dakota to hit 10 of 22 3-pointers while Quinton Hooker went 5 for 8 and Corey Baldwin went 4 of 9.
Even if North Dakota gets more of its 3s in transitions than Saint Mary’s does.
“One of the alarming things, and it's something we have to get right here entering Saturday, two shooters that clearly we knew were great shooters, No. 21 and No. 1, Hooker and Baldwin, they went 9 for 17,” Miller said. “But I'm just going to bet that if you look at how they scored their 3's, they got quite a few on a fast push in transition. Some of that starts with our running good offense. But it really starts with making sure that we're back. And transition can break your back. And at times I thought they created some great shots for themselves against our transition defense.”
Certainly, it appears the algorithms in KenPom land love the Gaels. The predictive website ranks Saint Mary's No. 14 in the country and gives the Gaels a 54 percent chance of beating Arizona.
North Dakota didn’t leave Vivint Arena with its heads down. The Hawks returned to the court after the game to stand in front of their fan section, and both the players and fans cheered.
“It was amazing,” guard Geno Crandall said. “It was a great experience. You can’t really sum it up in words. Coming out of that tunnel and seeing 17,000 people is just an awesome experience. We are just so grateful and to just be here is awesome.”
And, after battling Lauri Markkanen inside, Hawks center Carson Shanks might just be pulling for UA’s Finnish freshman on NBA Draft night.
“I sure hope my Timberwolves draft Lauri Markkanen,” said Shanks, of Prior Lake, Minn. “He’s a great player.”
Our full coverage is attached to this post, as are the box score and updated stats.
Earlier Thursday at Vivint Arena, Gonzaga had its share of issues trying to behave like a No. 1 seed, Northwestern received a break in beating Vanderbilt, and Saint Mary's may have proven some things with a win over VCU.
USC will face SMU at 12:10 p.m. Friday (TBS)
The LA Times had a closer look at Lonzo Ball before the Bruins face Kent State at 7 p.m. (TBS) in Sacramento
The Oregonian looked at Dana Altman's career trajectory before the Ducks open with Iona at 11 a.m. (TBS).