Weekend Review: Wrapping up UNC-Kentucky and Michigan-Arizona
Arizona at Michigan
In Arizona’s first big game since ascending to the #1 in the college basketball polls, they were heading across the country for a match-up in Ann Arbor against a struggling, but talented, Wolverines team. As has been the case for most of the Wildcats’ victories, it was a balanced effort on both ends of the floor which gave them the 72-70 victory. Sophomore forward Brandon Ashley has been playing much tougher than last year, and his desire and ability to make plays around the basket has been a huge boost. Fellow sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski also showed that he was willing to play with a mean streak, battling Mitch McGary and Jon Horford on both ends. The backcourt of Nick Johnson and TJ McConnell didn’t have a great offensive game (5-13 from the floor, 3-5 from3), but they both did a great job distributing the basketball, combining for 9 assists against 3 turnovers. Freshman Aaron Gordon played one of his better offensive games doing what he does best, using his athleticism to make plays around the basket. It was also a strong team effort on the glass with Arizona holding the Wolverines to 5 offensive boards, while getting 13 of their own.
The loss to Arizona dropped Michigan to 6-4 this season, though 3 of the losses were to ranked teams (Arizona, at Duke, at Iowa State). At times, it was very easy to see how much the team misses Trey Burke’s ability to run the Michigan offense and find players in great position to score. Freshman Derrick Walton hasn’t adjusted well yet to the college game, but sophomore Spike Albrecht seemed to handle the position much better. Sophomore wing Caris LeVert has been one of the most improved players in college basketball so far this season with a great ability to create shots that you wouldn’t recognize as being there. Glenn Robinson III finally had a game that showed why many see him as a future NBA player, knocking down shots on the perimeter and finishing strong at the basket. Nik Stauskas had difficulty getting good looks behind the arc (not a problem with Burke), and though he is looking to get to the basket more, the Wolverines need him to open up the floor. McGary is still trying to work himself back into game shape after back problems, and he did show some flashes of what made him a household name last spring.
Kentucky at North Carolina
To call this game a mess is being generous. 56 fouls were called between both teams and 88 free throws were taken. Even worse, the teams combined to only hit 55 of those 88 free throws (UNC 26-45, UK 29-43). In the end though, the Tar Heels played well enough to come away with a win that really didn’t seem as close as the 5-point final margin. Junior forward James Michael McAdoo played probably his most impressive game in the past two seasons. He was aggressive when he had the ball, going to the free throw line 19 times. He finished with 20 points on 4-6 shooting, and added 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Sophomore guard Marcus Paige had a tough first half, but rebounded in the 2nd half to finish with 23 points, including 10 of 10 from the free throw line. Sophomore forwards JP Tokoto and Brice Johnson played their roles well – Tokoto in the mid-range game and Johnson out in transition. The center duo of Kennedy Meeks and Joel James weren’t big offensive contributors, but their defense held the Kentucky duo of Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle to 16 points on 5 of 12 shooting.
For all of Kentucky’s young talent, they are still having trouble finding cohesion on the court, though one of the freshmen is starting to emerge. Aaron Harrison has been good the past few weeks, especially when he doesn’t rely on the long-range shot and looks for opportunities in the mid-range area and at the basket. He led Kentucky with 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting, hitting his only 3-point attempt. His brother Andrew was also aggressive going to the basket, getting to the free throw line 17 times. Though he finished with 17 points, he was only 3 of 10 from the field, and his 7 assists were marred by 4 awful turnovers. Cauley-Stein continued to be a force as a rim protector, blocking 5 shots and altering a few more. Randle had a tough time finding a rhythm and getting touches in good position, finishing with 11 points and 4 turnovers. James Young added 16 points, but only shot 3 of 10 from the field.