Most of the games early in the college basketball season are just to pad up your record. Sometimes it’s about more. Arizona took on a tough Kansas State team and overcame in the Maui Invitational Semis, winning 72-68 to remain perfect so far. Villanova faced a ranked Michigan team in the Legends Classic in New York, walking away with the 60-55 win, also staying undefeated.
That’s a whole lot of Wildcats. Arizona, number three in the nation according to the latest AP Poll have now beaten two consecutive teams you might consider as serious: First Missouri, followed by the Wildcats from Manhattan. Kansas State were close all game long, but always kept trailing in the battle of the Wildcats, coming up short with some frustrating misses in the opportunities they had to tie the game.
Arizona have now won 32 consecutive non-conference regular season games, overcoming a very strong game from Marcus Foster, leading the way with 23 points, including six 3-pointers that kept bringing Kansas State back within one possession each time it felt like Arizona were running away with it. Kaleb Tarczewski led Arizona with 18 points in a very efficient game for him down low, followed by 15 points from Gabe York and 14 from Stanley Johnson.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, stating off the bench, had a very good game in terms of protecting the rim and had two monster dunks, not to mention the two clutch free throws to finish off the game. He scored 6 points but also grabbed 8 rebounds and had 3 blocks. A bit more than just dunking from him could go a very long way for Arizona, looking once again like one of the more impressive defensive forces in college basketball.
In New York, Michigan were held to just 55 points in the loss to number 12 Villanova, which might mean the Wolverines, losing for the first time this season, will find themselves out of the top 25 by the next time the polls come out. The Wildcats have now beaten two ranked teams in two consecutive nights (beating VCU, #14, a day before) and managed to come back from being one point down to outscore Michigan 6-0 in the final 37.2 seconds.
The hero for them will be JayVaughn Pinkston, who did score just 8 points but also grabbed nine rebounds. He had one incredible block to deny Michigan from retaking the lead seconds after he muscled his way into the paint and put Villanova up for good before free throws finished the game off. Dylan Ennis led the way for the Wildcats with 15 points, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. Josh Hart had an 8-8 game coming off the bench.
Three Michigan players scored in double figures, led by Chris LeVert with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Zark Irvin with 11 points and Derrick Walton Jr. scoring 10 points helped out by they were very inaccurate, combining to hit 8-of-24 from the field. For Michigan, this was a dose of reality and physical basketball after their win against Oregon a night before. Now they have to wait three weeks until their next encounter with a ranked team, a daunting visit to #3 Arizona.