These two teams met on November 14th and Arizona came away with a 69-60 victory. While there are certainly some things that both teams players have stored in the memory bank in regards to individual tendencies that they can use to their advantage against their opponent. That is about all that can be learned from a matchup that was nearly 4 months ago since both teams have improved dramatically since then. San Diego State narrowly escaped in the second round with an overtime win. In the third round they were much more consistent throughout and there was never any doubt throughout their win over North Dakota State. Arizona had a tough time with Weber State in the second round but were able to pull through. They then faced a tough Gonzaga team that had been impressive in their second round win over Oklahoma State. After a 47 point first half gave them a comfortable lead, they were really able to clamp down defensively in the second half. The Wildcats forced 21 turnovers and converted them into 31 points. They also had a 4-1 assist to turnover ratio with 24 assists and only 6 turnovers.
Arizona forward Richard Hollis-Jefferson had 18 points to go with 5 rebounds and 5 assists off the bench in what is arguably the best performance for bench player so far in the tournament. Aaron Gordon also had a fantastic all around game with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. Guard Nick Johnson had his usual all around strong offensive game with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. Guard T.J McConell had 12 points and 6 assists. Guard Gabe York rounded out the double figure scorers with 11 points.
San Diego State is unlike many teams in this tournament in that they are not balanced on the offensive end. Most teams feature 4 or 5 double figure scorers in their starting unit. San Diego State had only 1 double digit scorer in their starting 5 and that was leading scorer Xavier Thames who had 30 points and 5 assists while going 8-9 from the free throw line. Forward Dwayne Polee came off the bench as the only other double-digit scorer with 15 points and 6 rebounds. While their offensive distribution was not even, they do have a star guard that is capable of taking over a game.
One big factor is the games proximity to the San Diego State campus. With only a two-hour drive there are likely to be many more Aztec supporters in the crowd. San Diego State hangs it hat on defense and has arguably the best perimeter defense in the tournament. Both teams play at a similar offensive pace and will look to run when a transition opportunity arrives. The Wildcats are certain to be ready to contain Thames and force somebody else to beat them. This game may come down to the end and the team that doesn’t turn the ball over will pull out the win.
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