Sean Miller never had to worry tonight if he would get his 100th win as coach of the Arizona Wildcats.
Arizona destroyed low-major Fairleigh Dickinson 100-50 tonight in their opening game of the NIT Season Tip-Off, getting a career-high 20 points from Gabe York and a nonstop highlight reel of dunks and defense.
The Wildcats put together runs of 18-3 and 18-2 in the first half, then kept the pressure on in the early second half, when they first built leads of over 40 points. They experiemented with reserves and walk-ons for much of the final 10 minutes, but still won by 50.
The win moved No. 5 Wildcats to 4-0 and into a second-round NIT Season Tip-Off game against Rhode Island (3-1) tonight at 9 p.m. The winner of tonight’s game will advance to New York for the NIT semifinals on Nov. 27.
While York led all scorers with 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting -0- he made 4 of 6 three-pointers – Nick Johnson added 16 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored all of his 11 points in the first half.
UA point guard T.J. McConnell, meanwhile, had nine assists to just one turnover, for a greater than 4-to-1 ratio on the season so far.
The easy win gave Miller a chance to debut freshman guard Elliott Pitts, who had missed the Wildcats’ first three games with a wrist injury. Pitts was under consideration for a redshirt season, but UA coach Sean Miller said last week it was highly unlikely, and Pitts’ participation tonight means he can no longer qualify for a non-medical redshirt season.
Pitts played 13 minutes, finishing with five points. He played the final minutes with four walk-ons, and hit a three-pointer for the final score with 44 seconds left, bringing loud cheers from the 8,000 or so fans at McKale who stayed until the end of the game.
The Wildcats also gave five minutes to forward Zach Peters, who has played in only two games since he was cleared medically for full contact, though Peters went scoreless with two fouls in five minutes.
Up by 27 at halftime, the Wildcats kept steamrolling the Knights early in the second, taking a 47-point lead with 12:14 left when Gabe York drove in for a layup that gave him 17 points at the time. He had already broken his career-high of 14 points when he hit a three-pointer with 12:57 left.
The second half became so lopsided that even former Wildcat guard Kyle Fogg chipped in on Twitter while watching the game: “This game ain't fair lmao… six Wildcats blocked that shot.”
In the first half, the Wildcats started turning the game into a fast-paced dunk fest in the first half tonight, taking a 51-24 halftime lead.
The Wildcats put together runs of 18-3 and 18-2 while holding the overmatched Knights to 32.3 percent shooting. Hollis-Jefferson led the Wildcats in scoring with 11 electric points while York threw down a fast-break dunk that brought a roar from the late-night crowd at McKale Center.
York finished with nine points in the half while Kaleb Tarczewski added eight points and five rebounds.
Playing on an 11 p.m. tipoff in its home time zone, Fairleigh Dickinson kept with UA early, tying the game at 8 with 16:47 on a layup by Sidney Sanders.
But the Wildcats went on an 18-3 run to take a 28-13 lead with 7:43 left in the half and blew it open down the stretch with an 18-2 blast that included thundering dunks from York and Hollis-Jefferson.