Red hot Randolph sparks Wildcats in second-half comeback

IMG_7517
Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat Guard Brandon Randolph (5) shoots a three-pointer during the game against Utah Valley on Thursday, Dec. 6 at McKale Center.

Arizona has been no stranger to playing close in the first half of games at home this season, they just weren’t used to being the ones who were down.

The ‘Cats trailed 41-29 at halftime, before Brandon Randolph electrified the McKale Center crowd, leading Arizona to an 80-69 win over Utah Valley University. 

Both Arizona and Utah Valley pushed the tempo early and often to start the game. The ‘Cats hit seven of their first nine shots, while the Wolverines made eight of their first 12 to take a 20-18 lead early on. 

     RELATED: No Jet Lag: 'Cats prevail on the road against Huskies

Utah Valley closed the first half on a 30-11 run, controlling the game for much of the action. Arizona allowed the Wolverines to shoot 50 percent for the period, while also committing 11 turnovers. 

The second half, however, was a much different story. 

After going 1-5 the first half, Randolph came out red-hot. He made his first four shots, all 3s, to bring the crowd back to life and give Arizona a 45-43 lead. 

“I definitely got going and my teammates found me,” Randolph said. “I think it hyped me up, the crowd, our team, it just helped us move into the game a little bit more."

Things went back and forth for most of the second half, and the game was tied at 57-all with 8:49 left to go, but the ‘Cats using a 13-3 run to put the game away for good.

After shooting 38.5 percent from the field in the first half, Arizona shot 60.7 percent the second half, while also taking better care of the ball, turning it over only 5 times. 

The free throw shooting also carried over from the UConn win Sunday, as after closing that game out 12-13 from the line, Arizona shot 9-10 in the second half and 14-16 overall. 

     RELATED: 47 points from 'terrific' bench play help Arizona rout Georgia Southern

Was there a speech or something that got Arizona motivated at halftime? According to Sean Miller, no. 

“We really didn’t get after them a whole lot at halftime.” Miller said. “Our team doesn’t have a great margin for error, especially against a team as skilled or experienced as Utah Valley is. This wasn’t a situation where we were still thinking about our UConn victory or didn’t respect Utah Valley, just the opposite.”

Arizona was paced by four players in double figures, led by Randolph, with Brandon Williams and Justin Coleman each scoring 15, and Dylan Smith pitching in with 13. 

For Williams, he recorded his first double-double at Arizona, except not how you would think. The freshman guard finished with 10 rebounds to go along with 5 assists on the night. “When somebody told me on the bench, I was shocked. I thought it was with assists. “ Williams said. “Just taking a load off of guys like Ryan (Luther), Chase (Jeter) and Ira (Lee). It goes a long way.

Arizona, for the second straight week, has a quick turnaround, as the team travels to the south to take on Alabama on Sunday, returning the game from the two teams home-and-home series. Tipoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tucson time, airing on ESPN.


Follow Mark Lawson on Twitter 



Share this article