The shot chart page in UA’s home game stat books has columns that list each team’s layups and dunks in each half. Usually, there’s more than enough space.
On Saturday, in the Wildcats’ 71-62 win over Washington, Arizona nearly filled one of them up. The Wildcats took 12 second-half layups, making seven of them, and UA was 3 for 3 on dunks, fueling the easy shot attempts with defense and offensive rebounding.
“We broke the game open in transition,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “Gabe York had a huge three-point shot and we had a number of players make big plays in transition. We like to do that, we like to push the ball.”
While York and Nick Johnson each hit a three-pointer, 16 of Arizona’s 24 made baskets were either dunks or layups. UA had three dunks and seven layups in the second half, out of 13 field goals.
Miller said after the game that “more than likely the difference between a conference’s best team and the conference’s middle of the road isn’t that big of a difference,” but added that UA had another edge Saturday.
“One difference is we have an incredible crowd,” Miller said. “If this game isn’t played with a crowd as frenetic as we had, the result could be a lot different. We’ve talked a lot about that to our team, taking advantage of the great fans we have and making it difficult on our opponent.
“I don’t know if there was a better atmosphere in college basketball than the one we just left.”
If this was how conference play is going to be, a game against a five-nonconference team that changed leads nine times, Aaron Gordon is OK with that.
Gordon said he’s ready.
“It took me a little bit to adjust in the preseason and now I understand the aspects of college basketball, what it takes, how hard you have to play, how physical it is," he said. "And now it’s just like any other college basketball game to me.”
Once again, Miller praised UA guard Nick Johnson, telling the story of how he unsuccessfully tried to get Johnson into a number of high-level summer basketball camps – only to have Johnson put together a team MVP effort so far this season.
Johnson had 24 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals today.
“If there’s another guard having a better season than Nick, I’d like to see him,” Miller said. “He guards the other team’s best player, he plays three positions, he plays point guard when T.J. (McConnell) is out and he just does so many things for our team that it’s hard to say anything other than he’s become a really good basketball player.”
While Johnson and Gordon had the most eye-opening dunks and layups Saturday, it was York who hit a three-pointer to keep Washington from expanding a five-point lead in the second half and changing momentum.
Miller called it a “huge” three-point shot and Gordon would have agreed.
“When he’s knocking down shots from three, we’re a whole other team,” Gordon said. “It’s a really, really big aspect. A shot like that really helps the momentum.”
After York’s three, Arizona never trailed by five points again, and took the lead for good with 9:54 left.
York also dunked during UA’s game-changing 9-3 run in the second half, putting the Wildcats up 58-54 with 6:25 to go.
“I think shooting in general is what the team needs me to do most out of anything,” York said. “I don’t like to think of myself as a shooter but that is the one thing I probably do best.
“Trying to make big shots in big situations is the best way (to help), so hopefully that will keep happening for me.”
Our full game coverage will be posted at midnight (though an at-the-buzzer story is here). We also had this on the additional pledges UA has received toward its $30 million first-phase goal of renovations to McKale Center.
Here's the official box score.