Tucson, AZ – The Arizona Wildcats came into this game ranked #2 nationally with an 8-0 record. The face-off with UNLV’s Runnin’ Rebels (3-3) would determine if they could moved to the top of the rankings after current #1 Michigan State’s loss earlier this week to North Carolina.
Arizona’s 6’8 frosh Aaron Gordon continually pushed the ball up the floor on the break after securing a defensive rebounds. 7’0 center Kaleb Tarczewski pushed the tempo inside, abusing UNLV’s post players in the paint, with a series of hook and baby-hook shots. Nick Johnson brought the Wildcats back from a late deficit , hitting a 3-pointer after UNLV had made their own three -pointer in the previous possession. Johnson proved that he is the Wildcats undisputed leader on the court.
6’7 freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made an amazing one-handed-over-the-head, no look pass, in traffic to the cutting Tarczewski, for an uncontested, important 2- handed dunk.
Hollis-Jefferson added to his team’s lead, with a great spin move, away from his defender in traffic, for a finger-roll. Jefferson also called a crucial time-out, while on the floor. If he didn’t call this time-out, it would have led to an Arizona turnover and UNLV would have gained an important possession.
Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson, were pivotal game changing players in the closing minutes, for the Wildcats. Gordon had a clutch-block shot, with one minute remaining in the game, followed by a crucial steal from a cross-court pass with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
Most would say point guard T.J. McConnell was the strongest player of the game for the Wildcats, but in my opinion, the MVP of the game was Hollis-Jefferson. Jefferson showcased his versatility as a passing rebounder and facilitator. He converted on 50% of the his shots (4-of-8 FG). He had a fantastic rebounding game off the bench, seven total rebounds, four off the offensive glass to go along with six assists and only one turnover.
6’9 center Khem Birch was UNLV’s strongest player. He had a double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also had two blocks against Aaron Gordon to keep the game close.
It was a great win by Arizona, in a very close game (63-58), in order to secure the nation’s #1 ranking.
Ryan McDonald is a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball.