Three factors that led to Arizona's comeback against Utah Valley

Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat Guard Brandon Randolph (5) gets the ball taken away from him during the game against Utah Valley on Thursday, Dec. 6 at McKale Center.

Arizona basketball used a big second half to defeat Utah Valley 80-69 Thursday night in McKale Center. Arizona trailed 41-29 at halftime before Brandon Randolph hit four straight 3s to send the home crowd into a frenzy, turning the tide of the game. Here is how Arizona was able to pull off the comeback victory.

Free Throw Line

After going 19-22 against UConn last Sunday, Arizona once again shot the ball well from the line, going 14-16, including 9-10 after halftime. The ‘Cats came into the game No. 29 in the country, shooting 75.9 percent on the season. 

As this season progresses, Arizona will undoubtedly be in more close games where free-throw shooting can make or break things. Sean Miller spoke postgame on how having players such as Brandon Williams who enjoy the moment is going to be key going forward. 

Guard Brandon Williams (2) loses control of the ball during the game against Utah Valley on Thursday, Dec. 6 at McKale Center.

“Brandon Williams is unflappable,” Miller said. “I can get on him; I can coach him hard. He moves on to the next play. Those types of guys are gamers. At UConn, in front of 14,000 people, guy walks to the line and knocks them both in as if he had been there many times.”

Second-Half Team

The Wildcats have gotten off to some slow starts at home this season. Of their five home games so far, UA had led by only single digits at the half twice, giving teams hope that a quick run to start the second half can have them right back in the game. After halftime, however, a switch was turned on for the ‘Cats. 

Arizona has outscored opponents in the second half this season by a margin of 97 points at 249-152. Arizona trailed at home for the first time all year against Utah Valley before outscoring the Wolverines by 23 in the second half. 

“We really didn’t get after them a whole lot at halftime,” Miller said. “That might be surprising. There were times in the game where I certainly did, but I thought it was needed.”

Randolph goes “unconscious”

Utah Valley came out aggressive from the tip-off Thursday night, looking like a team playing with confidence after winning five straight games and a preseason tournament in Las Vegas. As the Wolverines increased their lead at the end of the first half, McKale Center was quiet, a restless energy amongst the 13,724 in attendance. The ‘Cats needed somebody to make a play and step up in the second half, and to no surprise, it was Brandon Randolph.

Guard Brandon Randolph (5) shoots a three-pointer during the game against Utah Valley on Thursday, Dec. 6 at McKale Center.

Randolph has taken the leap many projected he would this season with increased playing time, as he has now scored in double figures in every game this year, averaging 17.1 points per game. Randolph came out and hit four straight 3s to send the crowd into a frenzy and give Arizona the lead in the second half. 

“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."

Miller said there was no special gameplay put in place after halftime; it was simply getting back to basics. 

“We really moved the ball, and we had a player become unconscious. I haven’t seen anybody do that for us in McKale like that since Gabe York on his senior day against Stanford. He gave everyone confidence.”

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