Arizona's defense key in win over Grizzlies

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

In Arizona's first home game since winning the Preseason NIT, the Wildcats could've afforded to take a bit of a break against the Montana Grizzlies.

They didn't.

Instead, they showed just how much this team has jelled defensively the past year.

To wit:

Montana had 12 offensive rebounds overall, four in the first half. Arizona had 21.

Granted, the Wildcats' inside presense of 6-foot-10 Joseph Blair and 6-9 Ben Davis were considerably stronger and quicker than the Grizzlies' 6-9 Nate Covill and 6-5 Chris Spoja. But that didn't mean Davis and Blair could let up any.

"We just did what we didn't do this past weekend (against Houston)," Davis said. "It's like Coach (Phil) Johnson and Coach (Lute) Olson said, 'Just start playing Arizona defense.' We kind of took a little break after the NIT."

Arizona grabbed 47 rebounds, its most all season. Montana had 30, the least for an Arizona opponent all season.

Limiting offensive rebounds meant limiting the number of second-chance shots. That, in turn, meant a lot of defensive rebounds. That, in turn, meant it was the duty of Blair and Davis to grab those defensive rebounds.

Blair had 13, Davis 10. Both played 28 minutes.

"Joseph and Ben are two of the better rebounders, I think, in the country," said assistant coach Johnson. "They have to give us that kind of effort every night at both ends."

The Wildcats held Montana scoreless for stretches of 6:33, 3:58 and 3:51. During those spans, Arizona had 10-0 runs each time.

By limiting the second-chance opportunities, the Wildcats could run more, resulting in either easy layups or foul shots. The Grizzlies got lucky there, however Arizona made just 13-of-23 foul shots.

But for Montana head coach Blaine Taylor, that's not much of a concession.

"Right now I would rank (Arizona's defense) as 1-a as the strength of their team," Taylor said.

Said UA head coach Olson, "I was pleased with our defensive effort, especially from the top guys. They run some great picks and some things that if you're not alert, you end up allowing them good looks at the basket."

They didn't.

Read Next Article