Durantula, meet The Hyphen
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, you’re getting some attention now.
NBA superstar Kevin Durant tweeted about the Arizona freshman’s free-throw line theatrics, “I see you Rondae #ShoulderShimmythempeoples,” during the Wildcats’ 84-61 win over Gonzaga on Sunday night at Viejas Arena in San Diego.
Hollis-Jefferson, who said he doesn’t know Durant personally but obviously admires his game, was taken aback.
“I just got this picture of it right here!” Hollis-Jefferson said, flashing his phone. “It tells me a lot of people are watching. He’s one of the guys I like too, that’s a great feeling, man.”
Hollis-Jefferson has been doing his patented shoulder move at the free-throw line for much of the year, but national folks are only discovering the magic of the shimmy recently.
Two QBs take in game
Nick Foles cheered on his alma mater from Viejas Arena on Sunday night. He wasn’t the only NFL quarterback in the building. Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers tweeted, “Saw two NCAA games tonight in person. Wow, Arizona is an impressive squad. They could run the table IMO.”
Rodgers, who attended Cal, lives in San Diego during the offseason.
UA crowd drowns out ’Dogs
If Gonzaga thought its reception last year in Salt Lake City was hostile, the Bulldogs had to have been feeling overwhelmed Sunday.
Arizona fans dominated Viejas Arena, as they did at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena, comprising well over half of the crowd for the late game on Sunday night.
Gonzaga had some support as the underdog, but not much.
It was reminiscent of a year ago for Kevin Pangos.
“Last year was tough, teams were really gunning for us,” the Gonzaga guard said. “We even felt it in Salt Lake; the crowds were completely against us. We’ve never really felt it in a game that’s supposed to be close to us.”
Few and far between
Mark Few is among the best in the country at retooling his talent, but even he struggled to conceive of a scenario in which he’d have to replace Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk was expected to be the major cog of what would’ve been a probable top-10 preseason team – and certainly one that would’ve given Arizona a tougher time than a 23-point loss – if he returned for what would have been his senior year.
Olynyk went from 3.8 points as a freshman and 5.8 as a sophomore to 17.8 points per game last year as a redshirt junior after sitting out 2011-12 to work on his game, but then he left for the NBA.
“You always try to plan out who you’re bringing in, what you’re bringing in, why you’re bringing them in,” Few said. “The hard thing for us – what we were ill-prepared for – was Olynyk. We planned on him being here this year. No one saw him blowing up like that.”
Gonzaga owns the glass
Entering Sunday’s matchup with Arizona, the Bulldogs were terrified of the Wildcats’ presence on the glass.
“They rebound better than any team we’ve played against,” Gonzaga’s Gary Bell Jr. said. “Extremely physical. We have to match that. With Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski, we usually have size on our opponent, and we’re not going to have that against these guys.”
Turns out the Bulldogs had little to worry about – they out-rebounded Arizona by a surprising 11 boards.
Play of the game
It’s hard to pick just one for Arizona, as the Wildcats had a postseason’s worth of highlight reel material in just one night, but Aaron Gordon’s put-back dunk with 10:54 left in the second half was a doozy. Gordon grabbed a Kaleb Tarczewski miss, jammed it home on Ryan Edwards and gave him an icy glare, as if to say, “Really, you’re gonna try that?”
The rebound on the play just happened to set an Arizona freshman rebounds record, as well.
The big number
67 Arizona’s passing has been pitch-perfect through their first two games in San Diego. The Wildcats have assisted on two-thirds of their made field goals, including 24 assists on Sunday on 32 makes.
Tweet of the Night:
The Wildcats’ official Twitter handle, @aplayersprogram, tweeted a picture from their locker room late Sunday showing a sign that read “Defense Wins.” True, though the locker room (and the slogan) belongs to San Diego State, their opponent in Thursday’s Sweet 16 game.
— Jon Gold