Boulder, CO – Two teams with high expectations met Saturday night in a key Pac-12 matchup. The 25-2 (No. 4 ranked) Arizona Wildcats with the highly touted trio of Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson, and Kaleb Tarczewski faced the Colorado Buffalos (20-8) in a loud and sold-out arena in a game televised by ESPN College GameDay.
Arizona is led by freshman wing-player, Aaron Gordon (6’9”, 210), a freakish-good athlete and widely considered an NBA first-round draft choice, with lottery-pick potential. The first play of the game was an attempted alley-oop dunk to Gordon that just narrowly missed, but was still impressive in displaying his explosive vertical leap. Gordon displays effective ball-handling skills for his size, especially in the open court, and already has a variety of scoring moves to the rim and is second on the team in scoring at 11.9 ppg. Although he must improve his shooting (41.1 percent FT) at this point, Gordon is capable of hitting the occasional three (33.3 percent in limited attempts) and will aggressively rebound the ball (7.9 rpg). His defense is deceptively good as he can switch the pick-and-roll to stay with most guards on the perimeter of use his size to compete with bigs in the paint. Gordon has 24 blocks and 17 steals this season.
Arizona raced to the early lead and was up 11 points in the first five minutes showing their worthiness of a top-four team in the nation. The talented Wildcats have it all; excellent perimeter play, solid post big man, well-coached game planning, and are very athletic. Colorado battled but their offense seemed to struggle as layups rimmed out and jumpers went wide, missing their first 15 field goal attempts of the game. With five minutes to go in half, both Aaron Gordon, and Kaleb Tarczewski picked up their second fouls, and the Buffaloes gained some momentum to close the half-time gap to 31-25, bringing a rowdy crowd to their feet.
To start the second half, Arizona started fast again and stayed that way to ruin Colorado’s Senior Night with an 88-61 victory over the Buffaloes. It was the largest losing margin in Colorado since hiring highly-successful Coach Tad Boyle four years ago, as Arizona swept the season series. Although the Wildcats are the top defensive team in the Pac-12 (57.6 ppg), Boyle says “I can’t emphasize how good they are defensively; there are 11 other teams in the Pac-12 and then there’s Arizona,” Boyle noted, “It’s not even close (on the defensive end).” But still Arizona’s offense shot a sizzling 60.3 percent (35-of-58) for the game as well as out-rebounding the Buffs 38-30, while Colorado shot a season-low 32 percent from the field (17-of-52).
Colorado’s Josh Scott (18 points) and Askia Booker (10) were the only Buffaloes in double figures while Gordon led Arizona with a season-high 23 points with Johnson adding 20 and Tarczewski 13.
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