Wildcats restore order, upset No. 7 Texas A&M
PHOENIX-- If redemption was in play for the Arizona men’s basketball team on Tuesday night against No.7 Texas A&M, they got it and in unusual fashion at Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix as they upset the Aggies 67-64 and restore order to their own domain. The win improves the Wildcats record to 6-3, while Texas A&M suffers their first loss, dropping to 7-1.
“I thought it was a high level basketball game, both teams fought hard,” Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy. “But the first five minutes of the second half when the team fouls were 6-1, that was to our disadvantage…we put them on the line too many times.
The method was simple, though it wasn’t carried out effectively enough for Arizona head coach Sean Miller this season, defense…defense…defense. They finally got it and just in time for perhaps their biggest non-conference win of the year. The Wildcats were able to hold Texas A&M scoreless in spurts throughout the game and keep as well as limiting the damage from duo tall men Robert Williams and Tyler Davis.
Davis did his part in carrying the offensive load scoring 21 points for the Aggies but down the stretch crucial plays were made to prevent Texas A&M from coming out on top for the second year in a row, one of them being a traveling call against Davis with A&M down by just two points and seven seconds left in the game.
“They were just double-teaming me on different possessions on and off, and coach was just calling plays to get me the ball,” Davis said. “…I was just trying to take what they were giving me and make the right basketball play…We knew it was going to be a high level basketball game.”
Several players played above their season averages to help aid the lower production from Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton. Dylan Smith had production off the bench that helped Arizona in a big way. With Trier and Ayton combining for 20 points, roughly half their season average combined, Smith, Dusan Ristic and Brandon Randolph made up the difference contributing 13 points a piece.
“I thought this was our best defensive effort of the year,” Miller said. “…I think we continue to progress from maybe the team we were in the Bahamas.”
Parker Jackson-Cartwright was also key down the stretch. Perhaps the biggest shot of the game with just under two minutes left as Trier slipped and tossed the ball to Jackson-Cartwright wide open in the corner. The senior settled in and hit a huge three that gave Arizona a lead they wouldn’t give up.
The final stat difference may have been the performance at the free throw line. Arizona shot the ball 24 times from the charity stripe, making 20, while the Aggies only attempted 10, making seven.
Arizona came out slow as Texas A&M started 4-for-4 to try and take control the game, it didn’t last long. The Wildcats and Aggies would find themselves in the midst of several runs against each other and end up tight at the half at 31-29 in favor of Texas A&M. The runs would ebb and flow throughout the game until the waining moments.
For Arizona, in the early going it looked like a lot of the same kind of things that got them in trouble to start the season, defensive breakdowns and lack of continuity on offense. They cleaned it up quickly to go on a 9-0 run and take the lead by 6.
The Aggies were able to re-establish themselves in the paint in stretches but their outside shot disappeared in the second half, mainly shooter DJ Hogg. Hogg was a reliable scorer from the outside for the Aggies but shot just five times, hampered by foul trouble and chipping in just nine points.
Arizona will take a deep breath before returning home to face a tough Alabama team in McKale on Saturday night.
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