‘Cats thrive on long ball
Tech was in striking distance of No. 9 Arizona for the first half of the opening period.
Then the Wildcats went on a long-ball binge that helped them pull away in their 85-57 win against Texas Tech on Saturday inside United Spirit Arena.
Nick Johnson, Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill combined to hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions to transform a three-point lead into a 12-point edge in a matter of 90 seconds.
“We’ve a very good 3-point shooting team,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We do it because we have a number of guys that can shoot the three. But we have to learn that it’s not just, ‘I’m hot, I’m going to take the next one,’ as much as just truly trying to get the best shot each possession.”
Tech, meanwhile, connected on just 6 of 21 attempts from 3-point range.
Tapsoba forced into action
With foul trouble plaguing the Red Raiders on Saturday, junior forward Kader Tapsoba played a career-high 16 minutes.
He played well in spurts. His seven points were second-most on the team, and he also blocked three shots.
Tapsoba said he felt good in his first extended action, but he knows there is plenty he needs to work on.
“I definitely worked on my jump shot in the offseason,” he said, “but that is not enough for a post player. I need to keep rebounding and (get used to) playing in the post.”
Texas Tech fans did not quite fill the lower bowl of United Spirit Arena on Saturday, but the 10,782 in the stands did make their presence felt, particularly early.
“I thought the crowd here was outstanding,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I know it could have been filled maybe a little more, but the fans that were here, you could really feel it. It was a true road game for us.”
Tech’s crowd was its largest since Feb. 13, 2010, when 11,453 people attended a game against Texas A&M.
“We fed off the crowd tonight,” Tech forward Jaye Crockett said, “and that really helped us. We’re learning. We’re a young team. A lot of the guys haven’t played at this level yet. We’re learning and building every game.”
Despite watching his team lose by 28 points at home, Tech coach Chris Walker was taking a glass-half-full approach after Saturday’s game.
Throughout his postgame news conference, Walker continuously lauded the effort his team put forth, even as it fell down by more than 30 points in the second half.
“We’ve got to be positive,” he said. “I think that going forward, I tell my guys every single day, ‘Guys, we’ve got to chip away. The only thing we’re responsible for is being the best team we can be at the end of the year. You can learn a lot from this game. We can certainly learn a lot, and that’s what we’re going to do going forward.”
Besides, Walker said, it certainly wasn’t as if he his team was playing a slouch opponent. The No. 9 Wildcats proved to be anything but.
“I think that team has a chance down the road to be in the Final Four,” Walker said of the Wildcats. “They have experienced guards and size, a really good coach, and they really did some positive things.”
Arizona coach Sean Miller said he came away impressed with Walker’s squad, too.
“They play so hard,” Miller said. “They push it and they play fast.”