Arizona outlasts Stanford, remains unbeaten in Pac-12
After a 75-70 win over Stanford on Wednesday night, the Arizona Wildcats are 3-0 in the Pac-12 despite a bumpy start to conference play.
In a 64-56 victory against Colorado, freshman guard Brandon Williams shot 6-of-17 from the field and the team shot 43.1 percent, but the Wildcats eeked out a win.
It took them overtime to beat the .500 Utah Utes on Saturday in an uncharacteristic defensive performance by Arizona, allowing Utah to shoot 56.6 percent from the field.
And gainst the Cardinal, they withstood one of the best individual performances they will see all season from sophomore forward KZ Okpala.
On 16 shots, Okpala scored 29 points for Stanford with six rebounds, four assists and a steal. The 6-foot-9 wing continues to have a breakout second season, potentially landing him on the radar of NBA teams in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft.
Sean Miller’s team this year does not feature the big, lengthy wings of years past such as Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Aaron Gordon, meaning they have no one to match up defensively with the likes of Okapa and other NBA-sized scoring threats.
Arizona, though, went on a big-time surge in the second half. When Okpala hit a jumper with 12:04 left in the game to put Stanford up five, the Wildcats scored 12 of the game’s next 14 points over six minutes to lead by seven.
While Okpala continued to make plays, key buckets and trips to the free throw line from Williams and sophomore guard Brandon Randolph wrapped up the game.
The individual performance from Arizona to match Okpala wasn’t there, either. Randolph shot 4-of-15 from the line, but Arizona’s leading scorer hit three of his four shots from deep and by converting on all six of his free throw attempts, he managed to still score 17 points.
The Wildcats need a strong run in Pac-12 play to make the NCAA Tournament, and while it wasn’t in the prettiest fashion, a three-game winning streak is the right start for Miller’s team to hit its stride.