Dwight Powell’s six-foot-ten-inch frame had just taken the ball baseline for a reverse layup in a fashion few other six-foot-ten-inch men can do. The score was tied with less than one minute remaining. Crunch time, as it were, and Maples Pavilion had the acoustics of Y2K. Tiger Woods wasn’t there but Andre Iguodala was. Johnny Dawkins was more this, than this.
And if you haven’t been paying attention, here’s a quick breakdown of what Arizona does really well, their brand:
- Defensive eFG% – #1 in the nation
- Defensive efficiency – #2 in the nation
- Offensive rebound % – #11 in the nation
- Nick Johnson
These are the things that Arizona does so well and what they’ve ridden to an unblemished mark. Knock them off of these pillars and you have a good chance to win. Here is what Stanford did up until the game’s 9:58 point (more on that later, or rather, everything on that later):
- 46% shooting – would’ve been third highest against AZ this season – to the 9:58 mark
- 38% free throw rate and more stats that suggest Arizona’s defensive efficiency was threatened but it’s a wildly complex stat so I can’t really provide you context. Know that no other team has out-rebounded Arizona this season and Stanford did.
- 2 offensive boards. That’s how many Stanford allowed Arizona to get up until the 9:58 mark. Arizona averages 13/game. The Cardinal’s work was roughly the equivalent of just one Belieber passing out at a Bieber show.
- 9 points for Nick Johnson. He averages 17.
As I’ve often said before, Arizona does a phenomenal job of disregarding an opponent and playing their own brand of basketball. A brand defined by the former set of bullet points and a brand not being upheld as evidence of the latter set. Kudos Stanford on their first 30 minutes and 2 seconds of work.
So with Stanford’s effort as our backdrop, let’s look at that final 9:58, the final minutes, and how Arizona played Arizona basketball.
Powell’s bucket was Stanford’s first FG since the 9:58 mark. They were 1-9 during that 8:37 dry spell. They closed the game 1-10. We could include Powell’s two missed free throws in that window, too; but I learned in second grade that if the numerator is zero the answer is zero no matter the denominator. It’s not worth our while to include Powell’s free throws. They made just the herculean, NBA-esque Powell layup and two free throws Arizona intentionally made Chasson Randle shoot.
Defensive eFG%? Check.
Across roughly fifteen possessions, the Cardinal managed just the Powell layup on their sixteenth. Arizona forced two turnovers and had two blocks. They committed just the one foul and allowed just one offensive rebound.
Defensive efficiency? Check.
The play initially wound up in the hands of Brandon Ashley who had previously broke the back of the Wolverines. But he missed; and for all the aforementioned defensive success of the Wildcats, they were not matching it on offense. They were 3-13 in the same 8:37 window of Cardinal ineptitude plus one turnover. From 9:58 to end, Arizona grabbed four offensive boards. And so up went Ashley’s shot with seemingly a 77% chance of missing. It did and the live ball was grabbed by Kaleb Tarczewski.
Offensive rebounding? Check.
Yup, tied and ear splitting, we had a ball game. The giant, Polish, New Hampshite (?) had procured an offensive rebound which Arizona does at an elite level because they miss shots pretty regularly. Darwinism. Out the ball went and Nick Johnson squared up to his fourth three-point shot of the night – a fresh :35 be damned. This shot, like two of the three prior, went in. 58-55, Arizona. Johnson would grab the ensuing rebound on Chasson Randle’s eleventh miss of the night (Johnson, while we’re on it, guarded Randle the whole game and forced him into 3-15 shooting, 20%. Randle’s average game is 6.0-12.5, 48%). He’d sink two more free throws (we’re ignoring the one-and-one front he missed because I have a narrative to fill), head to the lockers with 16 points (game high), 5 boards, 4 assists (game high), zero turnovers, Arizona’s final 7 points, and get love from gold medalist, Iguodala. Arizona wins.
Nick Johnson? Check.