The Arizona Wildcats’ win on Senior Day was guided by the same man who’s led the way all season: a Duquesne transfer who will go down as one of the best point guards in school history.
Senior point guard T.J. McConnell was serenaded by “M-V-P” chants at his final game at McKale Center as UA routed Stanford 91-69 Saturday to finish the regular season with a 28-3 overall record and 16-2 mark in Pac-12 play.
McConnell was only 2-of-7 from the field, but he did everything else right, dishing out 11 assists (with just two turnovers) and creating three steals. It was a heck of a way to follow up his 11-assist, zero-turnover performance in Thursday’s blowout win over Cal.
McConnell scored all 10 of his points in the second half. Brandon Ashley had team highs in points (15) and rebounds (nine), and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 14 points and seven boards for the Wildcats, who clinched their second consecutive Pac-12 championship two days earlier.
Stanford (18-12, 9-9) trimmed a 16-point UA halftime lead to 59-47 with 13 minutes to play thanks in part to UA foul trouble. Stanley Johnson picked up a personal foul and a technical foul with 17 minutes left in the half, and Kaleb Tarczewski picked up his third foul shortly thereafter.
Minutes later, fellow center Dusan Ristic was whistled for his third and fourth fouls within seconds of each other.
But McConnell turned things around. He got his first points of the game on a jumper right before the shot clock expired to fuel a 11-3 Zona run, which included back-to-back dunks by Hollis-Jefferson and Tarzcewski.
Stanford whittled away an early 13-point Arizona lead behind seven points by Chasson Randle to get to within 29-27 with 6:41 remaining in the first half. Randle scored 14 points in the half.
But with McConnell riding the bench in foul trouble, the Wildcats closed the half on an 18-4 run, capped by Gabe York’s 3-pointer right before the halftime buzzer sounded to give Arizona a 47-31 advantage. York and Tarczewski each scored 10 points for UA in the first half.
Arizona clamped down on Randle in the second half. The senior, who’s averaging 19.2 points per game this season, scored just two points in the half and fouled out with five minutes to play.
Here’s a closer look at how Arizona wrapped up a remarkable Pac-12 campaign and will head into next week’s conference tournament with plenty of momentum, by the numbers:
Beating Stanford has become like breathing air for UA. The Wildcats have won 11 straight games against the Cardinal in a streak dating back to 2009.
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Arizona went 8-for-17 from 3-point range Saturday, led by York, who was 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. York, who scored 13 points Saturday, has scored in double figures in each of his last five games, shooting 13-of-25 from 3 during that span.
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Tarczewski is peaking at the right time. He’s scored in double figures in five of his last six games, including 13 points (on 4-of-5 shooting from the field) on Saturday. The junior is averaging 13 points and 6.3 rebounds and shooting 69.6 percent from the field in that span.
Coach Sean Miller elected to start little-used UA senior forward and Tucson native Matt Korcheck on Senior Day. No. 31 made an immediate impact, scoring on a layup off a beautiful McConnell pass for the game’s first points.
From the “it’s funny because it’s true” file:
T.J. McConnell will finish @APlayersProgram career 35-1* at McKale Center.
*Only loss while playing for Duquesne in 2011 (h/t @ZackBlatt)
— J.B. Long (@JB_Long) March 7, 2015
The Wildcats extended their home winning streak to 38 games, the longest active home streak in the NCAA and tied for the second-longest streak in Wildcat history. UA won 71 consecutive games at McKale Center from 1988-91.
Arizona’s 47 points were the most Stanford allowed in the first half of any game this season.
Arizona scored at least 80 points for the 14th time this season and the sixth time in their last eight games. The Wildcats put up 99 points against Cal on Thursday.