Ann Arbor, MI – The University of Arizona Wildcats (AP and ESPN/USA #1 college basketball team in the country), down by as many as 11 points early in the second half, came back with a 44-point second half to defeat the University of Michigan Wolverines 72-70 to run their record to 11-0 before a raucous sell-out crowd of 12,707 on Saturday at Michigan’s Crisler Center.
Shooting a sizzling .552 (16-of-29) from the floor in the 2nd half, the Wildcats were led by four players in double figures, forward Brandon Ashley with 18 points and three others with 14 points, forward freshman phenom, Aaron Gordon, center Kaleb Tarczewski and veteran guard, Nick Johnson.
It was clearly as well played a mid-December non-conference game as possible by two teams in a highly touted game. The game was played in a tournament atmosphere and before a national TV audience. Both coaches praised their respective team’s efforts.
Certainly Arizona has all the makings of a Final Four type team with star power, length, experience, toughness and balance. While Michigan is neither at Arizona’s current level nor their own level of last season, they will no doubt contend for the Big Ten Championship and a high NCAA tourney seed come next March.
Wildcat Coach Sean Miller was very happy with the quality road win. “For us to overcome a really good team in a great environment, we leave here knowing this is as quality a win as you can have in the country”, Miller said.
Besides the torrid second half shooting, the Wildcats benefited from a 37-28 rebounding edge and making 14-of-15 free throws, including 6-of-6 from Johnson down the stretch. Adding to the late Wildcat heroics was forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s only bucket of the game on a three-point play with 2:32 left to give Arizona it’s first lead since an early first half 7-5 edge.
While disappointed in the loss and letting a substantial 2nd half margin get away to slip to 6-4 overall record, Michigan Coach John Beilein managed to come away with a positive spin, “I thought we made a major stride, even in defeat.”
The Wolverines were also led by a quartet of double digit scorers as sophomore Glenn Robinson III led with 20 (16 in the 1st half), followed by fellow soph’s, Caris Levert (15), Nick Stauskus (14) and sub Spike Albrecht (10).
Don Sicko is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.