Lyons keys Arizona past Belmont
by Doug Haller, USA TODAY Sports
SALT LAKE CITY – When it was over, Arizona coach Sean Miller stood in the locker room and read off some numbers. One that stuck out: The Wildcats had just outrebounded Belmont by 26.
Grant Jerrett was shocked.
“I knew we got a lot of rebounds, but I didn’t know it was that bad,” the freshman forward said.
Sixth-seeded Arizona used its height and some stingy defense to bounce No. 11 Belmont out of the NCAA Tournament, posting an impressive 81-64 win at Energy Solutions Arena on Thursday. With the win, Arizona advances to Saturday’s third round against the winner of Thursday’s late contest, New Mexico and Harvard.
Suddenly, the Pac-12 is in the spotlight. Aside from Arizona, Oregon and California also produced wins on the tournament’s first full day, putting at least three conference schools into the round of 32. Colorado and UCLA play today.
“Man, it’s a statement that all of us who coach in the league were hoping to make,” Miller said. “You get respect by what you do in this tournament. … And I believe that we have the ability as a conference to win in March.”
For Arizona, size was the difference. The Wildcats’ three inside freshmen — Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Jerrett — outrebounded smaller Belmont by themselves. The overall tally was 44-18. The Wildcats produced 17 second-chance points. Belmont had one.
Defensively, Arizona disrupted nearly everything Belmont wanted to do. The Bruins had thought they could take advantage of Tarczewski. Coach Rick Byrd figured the 7-foot center would defend Trevor Noack, a 41.8-percent 3-point shooter. Byrd wasn’t sure Tarczewski could recover in time after helping on ball screens. But as it turned out, Arizona had removed Tarczewski from the equation.
“We categorized their frontcourt players into two groups,” Miller said. “Group 1 was players that could shoot, almost like small forwards. And anytime they set a ball screen we switched. The other group were guys, that although good players, weren’t nearly as prolific shooting the 3. We chose not to switch on that, so Kaleb would have always been on one of those players.”
As a result, “we really couldn’t get … [For more on Mark Lyons keys Arizona Wildcats past Belmont Bruins, click here.]