In the midst of a two-game losing streak that left many around the program searching for answers, a trip back home to McKale Center was just what Arizona needed, dominating Utah from start to finish in a 93-77 victory.
Zeke Nnaji was once again the best player for Arizona, finishing with 24 points on 9-12 shooting, but the emergence of another Wildcat is what stole the show on Thursday.
Max Hazzard coming alive, a new starting lineup and our first look at James Akinjo were some of the things that stood out following the victory.
Hazzard had scored 20 points in his last five games on just 7-19 from the field, but proved during his time at UC Irvine he was able to heat up quickly, including a game last season that saw him hit 10 3-pointers in a game.
It showed tonight, as he scored 24 points on 7-11 from the floor and 6-10 from 3-point range.
“I’ve been doing this thing for a long time,“ he said postgame. “This is my fifth year of college basketball. I’ve had big time nights, great nights shooting the ball. This was just one of them. I plan to do it again.“
“It was great to see him shoot the basketball,” Sean Miller added postgame. “We see him shoot it a lot in practice, but in fairness to Max it takes a little bit of time to get comfortable. My hope is that there are more moments like the segment he had in the first and second half.”
Arizona as a whole made 15 3s on the night, the most in a game all season for the Wildcats, but did so efficiently, shooting 52% from long distance.
Sean Miller had talked during the week at his press conference about potentially switching things up with his starting lineup to provide a spark.
Things were switched up against Utah, but not by choice.
Senior Chase Jeter missed the game due to back spasms, with Stone Gettings taking his place in the starting lineup. It was the only time so far this season Arizona has changed its starting lineup.
Gettings finished with 7 points on 2-4 shooting in 29 minutes in the start. Jeter is currently listed as day-to-day, with Miller unsure when the big man will return.
“Everyday, our hope is that he gets a little bit better,” Miller said.
Sharing Is Caring
Arizona had 23 assists on the night, led by Dylan Smith with 6 and Nico Mannion with 5, to go along with just one turnover between the duo.
Six different Wildcats had at least 2 assists, a big reason why they shot the ball as well as they did on the night.
The stats don’t lie when it comes to this team and passing the ball: They blow their opponent out.
In the Wildcats' six games this season with over 20 assists, they have outscored opponents by an average of 29 points and are now 6-0 in those matchups.
Georgetown transfer James Akinjo was in Tucson for the first official time as a member of the Arizona program this week, posting his locker on Instagram Wednesday afternoon.
Dressed in an Arizona tracksuit, last season’s Big East Freshman of the Year took in the action from the bench, and even got some shots up postgame inside McKale Center.
The sophomore will be eligible to play in the second semester of next season, barring an NCAA waiver to potentially play sooner.
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