Remember when Mamadou Ndiaye, the 7-6 center at UC Irvine, stonewalled Washington last year and handed the Huskies an 86-72 defeat at Alaska Airlines Arena?
Well, Arizona coach Sean Miller intentionally scheduled a game against the Anteaters early in the season to give the second-ranked Wildcats a tough challenge in November. Don’t let the score in Arizona’s 71-54 victory fool you. The Wildcats trailed at halftime and didn’t take control until midway in the second half when they went on a 15-0 run and held the Anteaters scoreless for six minutes.
They did it with phenomenal free-throw shooting 29 of 34 (.853) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who had a game-high 19 points, including a vicious slam over Ndiaye.
And kuodos to Miller for managing a roster burdened by talent and a handful of players projected to be taken in next summer’s NBA draft. How many coaches could convince someone as talented at Hollis-Jefferson to accept a role as a sixth man? After three games, the 6-7 sophomore wing is first on the team in scoring (16.0 ppg), second in rebounds (6.0) and sixth in minutes (24.0 mpg).
With Hollis-Jefferson coming off the bench, Arizona starts touted freshman wing Stanley Johnson and senior sharp-shooter Gabe York.
Still you have to wonder how long Hollis-Jefferson will be OK with his role? And when was the last time a Pac-12 MVP candidate didn’t start?
THURSDAY MORNING LINKS:
— Here’s our story about Washington’s next opponent Seattle University, which bounced back from a season-opening defeat with a feel-good 98-74 nonconference win Wednesday over Nebraska Omaha. Isiah Umipig led the Redhawks with 24 points and Jarell Flora had 22.
— It doesn’t appear as if the Huskies’ will receive any help in the strength of schedule department from South Carolina State. After losing 77-59 to Washington last week, the Bulldogs (0-3) dropped their next two games 91-52 at San Francisco and 75-55 at Virginia respectively.
— In case you were wondering, former Husky Desmond Simmons, who transferred to Saint Mary’s in May, has made an early impact with the Gaels (2-0). He’s starting and he’s rebounding (6.0 rpg). But he’s not scoring a whole lot (4.5 ppg). Here’s his stats.
— Meanwhile, former Husky Hikeem Stewart is has been a reserve guard in two games at Kentucky Wesleyan. He’s averaging 6.0 points and 2.0 assists.
— It’s a big night for the Pac-12 as California faces No. 23 Syracuse in New York at the 2K Classic. It’s the second meeting between a Pac-12 team and a ranked opponent. After nearly a week since the start of the season, the conference is 20-4 in nonconference games. Corrected: 2:20 p.m.
— Arguably, Colorado has the best win in the Pac-12 – a 90-59 victory over Auburn.
— And perhaps the preseason accolades for No. 25 Utah (1-1) were a bit premature. It’s no shame to lose 53-49 at 16th-ranked San Diego State, but it’s somewhat alarming when the Utes’ top three players – Delon Wright (7 points), Jordan Loveridge (5) and Brandon Taylor (9) – shoot 7-for-30 from the field and combine for 21 points. The knock on Wright, a Pac-12 MVP candidate, is his shoddy perimeter shooting and he did nothing to quiet critics after a 2-for-13 display, including 0-for-5 on three-pointers.
— UCLA (2-0) wants to run.