Analysis: Three ways Arizona staved off upset bid from UC Davis
Well that was close, probably too close. Arizona men's basketball (9-4) narrowly defeated UC Davis at McKale Center on Saturday and needed last minute heroics to do so, despite leading by as many as 15 points.
Here's how the Wildcats were able to go into the Christmas break with a win.
Coleman comes up clutch
Point guard Justin Coleman has been quiet offensively since returning from Maui, but his go-ahead 3-pointer with one minute remaining in the game sent McKale into a frenzy. UC Davis lead 68-67, but coming out of an inbounds pass, Coleman went for a step-back 3 and knocked it down, echoing memories of his pull-up 3-pointer against Iowa State in Maui.
The clutch shot against UC Davis turned out to be the Coleman’s only made basket of the game (1-4 FG) as the senior had had a rough night up until that point, committing four fouls and only having two assists.
But the team captain stepped up when it mattered most.
“He’s one of those guys that the bigger the moment, he seems to rise to the challenge,” head coach Sean Miller said.
As for Coleman, he said that his focus lately has been using the success of his other teammates, particularly Chase Jeter and Brandon Randolph to dictate whether he becomes a facilitator or a scorer. However, with the game on the line, Coleman took matters into his own hands.
“My teammates believe in me and my coaches believe in me as well so I decided to take the shot and I made it,” Coleman said.
UC Davis air ball
Coleman could have just as easily been one of the reasons Arizona lost the game, though. With the clock running under 20 seconds and the score still 70-68, Coleman heaved up another 3-pointer to put the game out of reach and air balled it, allowing UC Davis the chance to tie or take the lead.
Neither scenario happened as UC Davis wasn’t able to set up a quality shot and had to settle for a long 3-pointer that was an air ball as well.
Overall, Arizona held the Aggies to just 4-11 from beyond the arc, a conscious decision that UA hoped to execute.
“I thought out guys did a great job of playing them outside the three-point line and if they were going to score, they were going to have to score inside the arc,” Miller said.
Neither team found much success from the free throw line – UC Davis went 12-20, Arizona 16-25 – but when you’re a road team trying to pull off an upset, free throw shooting becomes even more crucial.
The Aggies were 4-9 from the line in the second half and missed several opportunities to tie or take the lead.
Arizona’s foul shooting troubles were more evident in the first half when the team went 9-15, but a 7-10 performance in the second half was key, especially in the final four minutes where the ‘Cats hit 5-6.
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