Arizona Wildcats basketball cruises past Augustana
No. 5 Arizona defeated Augustana 84-52 last night at McKale Center in the Wildcats’ first and only exhibition game of the season.
Monday was the debut for many Wildcats and was the first game for the UA as a team since it lost to Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen on March 28. But more importantly, it begins the long process of a college basketball season.
“Tonight was your typical exhibition game,” said Arizona head coach Sean Miller. “I don’t think any player or team will be satisfied with how you play in October.”
Last night was the third time in five years that the Vikings had played an exhibition game in Tucson. Though they are a Division II school, Augustana gave the Wildcats some problems early on, most noticeably in the front court. The Vikings’ leading returning scorer Daniel Jansen, who Miller called a “Pac-12 player,” forced sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski to play out of his comfort zone and took him out of the paint, causing him to struggle to contribute in rebounding Monday night.
Ryan Revock/The Daily Wildcat Kaleb Tarczewski dunks the ball against Augustana on Monday at the McKale Memorial Center.
“[Rebounds] were the most disappointing part of tonight,” Miller said. “We have to make sure we put Kaleb in positions to succeed, especially against players who play with their face to the basket.”
The UA tied Augustana with 39 total rebounds and allowed the Vikings to recover 15 missed shots for offensive rebounds. Jansen finished Monday’s exhibition with 18 points and four rebounds.
The Vikings’ other big man Yuriy Malashenko had 14 points and was 4-6 from beyond the three point arch.
Point guard T.J. McConnell returned to the court after sitting out last season due to transfer rules and combated Augustana scoring early in the game with a couple of quick baskets.
“It’s been a while but it felt great to be back on the court,” McConnell said. “I’ve been anxious for the last year and a half, but it feels good to be back playing.”
McConnell found open shooters all night and went 5-6 from the field, finishing with 12 points.
“He knows how to play the game,” Miller said of McConnell. “He’s a tricky player.”
The Wildcats’ assist to turnover ratio was a significant positive. Arizona had a team total of 21 assists and only five turnovers. McConnell led the team with eight assists.
On the other side of the ball, the Wildcats forced 16 turnovers and only allowed the Vikings to record 12 team assists. Along with McConnell, Monday was also the debut of Arizona’s highly touted freshman class that features small forwards Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and shooting guard Elliott Pitts. Gordon, the only freshman to start, was aggressive from the tip and looked comfortable on the court. However, he was actually playing with a strained groin, which is why he didn’t see much action in the second half.
The entire freshman group, including Gordon, started the game slow but finished well.
Hollis-Jefferson and Pitts were a little rustier out of the gate. Both missed the rim on their first shot. As the game progressed the two freshmen found more of a rhythm toward the end of the game.
“The game is much faster,” Hollis-Jefferson said about playing his first college game. He also said that even though the game didn’t go as he had planned, especially in the beginning, it’s about the process and the growth.
McConnell said it’s important to move on and look ahead.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “Our ball pressure was good and if we keep working hard in practice and going over our roles we’ll be OK.”
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella