A new York fuels Arizona basketball's revival
Sophomore shooting guard Gabe York has recently emerged as a key contributor on both ends of the court for the Arizona men’s basketball team.
Head coach Sean Miller attributed the team’s recent success to the emerging depth in Arizona’s rotation. Last weekend against Colorado, Arizona utilized 11 players to gain a 27-point victory, arguably its strongest offensive outing this year.
Miller said that he was excited about York and freshman guard Elliott Pitts.
“It’s not only Gabe, but Elliott adds to it as well — those guys can shoot the basketball,” Miller said. “It’s not just when they take a shot or make one, but just their presence and the [knowledge] that they have the ability to do so. It gives you better spacing and allows our entire team to be at our best on offense.”
Sophomore guard Gabe York penetrates Oregon State's defense during Arizona's 54-76 win against Oregon State in McKale Center on Feb. 9.
York provided a boost for the Wildcats when they traveled to Utah and subsequently led Arizona to an overtime victory behind 6-for-10 shooting from the floor and 3-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc. He compiled a team-leading 15 points while adding four boards, two assists and a steal over a career-high 36 minutes.
In the Wildcats’ next game at Colorado, while York didn’t shoot well — 1-for-4 from the field — Miller said he did an “outstanding job” on defense. Last year, his defense was a reason he didn’t receive more minutes, but the 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard collected 10 rebounds in the Colorado game.
“My teammates blocked all the guys out and the ball just fell in my hands a couple times,” York said. “But Coach told us when [sophomore forward] Brandon [Ashley] went down that we need to step up the rebounding, so I try to [contribute] a little more than I used to.”
Pitts scored six points off 2-for-3 shooting from 3-point range and added a rebound to the Wildcats’ most recent victory.
Miller said that the Wildcats’ practices have been going well recently, and that everybody on the team is still aggressively trying to improve.
“We’ve been that type of team from the start, and have very few blips on the screen when it comes to effort, attitude and chemistry,” Miller said. “Even on our road trip, we practiced hard, we didn’t take any days off in between, and everybody was ready to go each and every day. When you do that, it gives you a chance to have a really good performance.”
Gordon and Johnson return to form
In Arizona basketball’s win over Colorado last weekend, starters Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon finally broke free of their respective slumps.
Gordon came out strong after his worst offensive performance of the season against Utah — which saw him score only three points and grab three boards — and amassed 23 points off 10-for-13 shooting. He sunk both of his long-range attempts and pulled down eight rebounds.
“[Gordon] really let the game come to him,” Miller said. “You could really see his confidence growing as the game went on.”
Johnson said that sometimes it’s easier to get yourself in a groove when you take advantage of the easier short-range jumpers before moving beyond the perimeter.
“Personally, I start to play better when I get a couple easy baskets,” Johnson said. “When [Gordon] got the lob and a few dunks [he] started to open up and really play loose.”
Last week, Johnson rebounded to form after shooting just 25 percent against ASU.
“We just got comfortable with our offense,” Johnson said. “This weekend could be the turning point for us as far as getting back in the right mindset as far as offense. We continued to play good defense and really found an aggressive rhythm on offense.”
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17