What’s the point of being 11-0 without making a few wins tense and nail biters? Arizona came back from a first half deficit for the fourth time this season with a 72-70 win in Michigan which should keep them at #1 for one more week, carried by some great basketball from Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon when it matters the most.
Michigan, who haven’t beaten a top 10 team in a very long time regardless of their status as NCAA tournament finalists from last year, held a nine point lead at half time and got a bit game from Glenn Robinson III, scoring 20 points. However, they were easily beaten on the offensive glass, as Arizona grabbed 17, allowing the Wildcats too many easy second-chance points despite finishing with better shooting percentages and turning the ball over a lot less.
Arizona missed 34 shots in the game, but grabbed offensive boards on 17 of them, while Michigan finished with only 18 defensive rebounds. Their 6 offensive rebounds were tied for the lowest since the beginning of last season. The game turned into a free throw battle in the end, as Gabe York missed his second free throw with 1.5 seconds remaining, leaving Michigan with an opening to win or tie the game, but Nick Stauskas heave from his own half didn’t even touch the rim.
Sean Miller, Arizona head coach – This was as quality of a win as you can have, in my opinion, in the country. I felt like today — we’re going to be better if we won, we’re going to be better if we lost. We didn’t feel going in at half that we were down nine. We felt good about ourselves. We had a few easy shots that we didn’t finish.
Michigan aren’t ranked, losing for a fourth time in less than a month, and a second time to a top 10 team in the last 11 days. Still, playing them in the Crisler Center is a rough test for anyone, and Arizona, looking like the early favorites to go all the way despite not being filled with top prize freshmen except for Aaron Gordon (14 points, 5 rebounds) thanks to going 2-0 on the road so far and picking up a lucrative win over then #6 Duke. Other teams have had tougher schedules to start the season with, but Arizona still haven’t slipped in the road given to them, stating conference play on January 2 against Washington State.
Once again, the ability of Arizona to make a difference between halves came into play. They shot only 11-of-32 from the field during the first, scoring 28 total points, 14 of them coming in the paint. Their shooting vastly improved in the second, hitting 16-of-29 shots, scoring 44 points and 20 of them in the paint. Gordon had no problem making way and room for himself beneath the basket, scoring 10 of those 20 points in the paint, hitting 7-of-11 from the field.
Defense was the other side to their comeback, halting Michigan, who shot 6-of-11 from beyond the arc during the first half, on only 2-of-6 in the second, moving a lot more quickly on the perimeter, and looking more like a team that has what it takes on both ends of the floor to be around the #1 rankings come March or April.