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October 28, 2013

Arizona rolls in exhibition opener, 84-52

The starting backcourt of Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell led five double-figure scorers to power Arizona to a 84-52 victory over Augustana College in an exhibition contest Monday at McKale Center.

The duo set the tone early and combined to score 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting - including 3 of 5 from the 3-point line. McConnell, a transfer from Duquesne who sat out last season per NCAA rules, added a game-high eight assists and did not commit a turnover.

"It's been a while, but it felt great to be back on the court," said McConnell, who added three steals. "I've been anxious for about two years to get back on the court. It was a great experience. I'm glad I'm back playing."

Sophomore reserve Gabe York, who appeared in just 15 of 35 games last season, provided a spark with nine of his 14 points in the second half. York made his first six shots before missing his final three attempts.

"I was excited about the way (York) played tonight," UA head coach Sean Miller said.

The bench scored 31 points for the Wildcats, who shot 50.9 percent from the floor.

Sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski and freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 12 and 10 points, respectively. Tarczewski added a team-high seven rebounds.

"It's different to play with these type of guys," Hollis-Jefferson said of the transition from high school to his first college experience against someone other than his own teammates.

Augustana, a Division II program from Sioux Falls, S.D., was led by Daniel Jansen's 18 points. The Vikings shot just 30.2 percent.

The Wildcats opened cold from the field, connecting on just 2 of 7 shots before McConnell's 3-pointer pulled UA within 12-11 before the first media timeout.

A 20-18 advantage on the glass - including 8-2 on the offensive boards - helped Augustana hang around early. The teams finished tied at 39 on rebounds, but the Vikings owned the offensive end, 15-5.

"For us to not have a rebounding advantage, against a team as skilled as they are, is really concerning," Miller said.

UA returned to the floor with a smaller lineup, moving Aaron Gordon to power forward and Brandon Ashley to center along with Hollis-Jefferson at small forward, York at shooting guard and Jordin Mayes at the point. The lineup scored six consecutive points to put the 'Cats ahead 17-12 with 12:02 left in the half.

UA extended the run to 20-4, capped by back-to-back dunks from Gordon and Johnson, to push the lead to 28-16 at the 7:12 mark.

After starting just 2 of 9 from the 3-point line, the Wildcats picked it up from beyond the arc with baskets from York, Gordon and McConnell. The tempo picked up and helped UA take a 46-32 lead into the locker room.

"I just think the process I've gone through the last year-and-a-half has been good for me," York said. "I think it showed tonight and hopefully it will the rest of the season."

Johnson and McConnell accounted for 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting - including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers - to lead the first-half charge. Gordon played 18 of his 22 minutes in the first half and was injured for most of the second half.

Miller said he did not want to take a chance by playing the forward any extra minutes. Gordon has been battling a groin strain for the past "five to seven days," Miller added.

The Wildcats led by as many as 32 in the second half and cruised.

Arizona will play Saint Mary's in a closed scrimmage Nov. 2 before opening the regular season six days later against Cal Poly.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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