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November 12, 2013

York's first half sparks No. 6 Arizona in rout

The only thing anyone who wasn't at McKale Center needed to know about Monday night's contest was that Gabe York had just one less 3-pointer than Long Beach State had baskets - period - in the opening half.

Sixth-ranked Arizona led by 26 at halftime, York showcased an all-around game and the Wildcats throttled the 49ers, 91-57. It was the fifth time the programs have met and Arizona (2-0) has scored at least 90 in each contest.

"Our team was ready to play," UA head coach Sean Miller said.

Brandon Ashley, whose best game last season came against LBSU (1-1), scored a game-high 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

But the story early, with the score still somewhat reasonable, was York - and Miller said the same thing.

The sophomore guard, who came off the bench after an emergency start in last week's opener, played the role of sniper and facilitator. York finished with a career-high 14 points, four rebounds, and six assists - including three on lobs to Nick Johnson - to go with no turnovers and a pair of steals in 23 minutes.

"He's probably our best lob thrower," said a smiling Johnson, who finished with 14 points.

York was 4 of 5 on 3-pointers in the first half to set the tone.

"Shooting the ball the way he did in the first half I'm really excited about what (York) can bring to the table for the entire year," Miller said. "He's a very pivotal player for us off the bench."

It looked like college basketball's version of Lob City. Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson powered a high-wire act that led to a 10-0 edge in fastbreak points and 17-8 off turnovers.

Gordon collected his second consecutive double-double, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds - three on the offensive glass. Jefferson chipped in seven for the Wildcats, who shot a blistering 58.6 percent - including 7 of 17 from beyond the arc - and led by as many as 37.

UA center Kaleb Tarczewski, who was limited by a hip injury and came off the bench in the opener, collected nine points and 10 rebounds in his first start of the season.

LBSU, which shot 42.9 percent in the second half after a cold start, was led by Dan Jennings' 16 points and eight rebounds. The 49ers finished at 27 percent from the field as star guard Mike Caffey was limited to six points on 2-of-10 shooting.

"I was just disappointed we didn't battle through it," said LBSU head coach Dan Monson, whose team trailed 44-18 at halftime. "I knew offensively we were a work in progress and were going to struggle. What I didn't like is how we reacted to it. We didn't fight through adversity as a group."

One of the few second-half notes worth mentioning was a surprise one.

Zach Peters, the Kansas transfer who dealt with concussions and lingering symptoms for the past year, made his debut with 9:45 to play.

"He didn't think he was going to play, either," Johnson said of Peters.

Miller said last week that expecting Peters, a 6-10 forward, to play early in the season would be "unfair" after he was just recently cleared for contact in practices. But the opportunity presented itself with the lopsided score.

Peters collected a rebound and missed both of his shots on 3-point attempts in seven minutes, but it was not about the numbers for the redshirt freshman.

"It was nice for our future, and his at Arizona, that he was able to get out there," Miller said. "But make no mistake, there was a chance he never was going to do that (play) again, at one point.

"It was just nice to be able to see him put a uniform on and get out there and play. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a nice, long career."

Freshman walk-on Trey Mason, the son of former UA guard-turned-Grammy Award-winning music producer Harvey Mason Jr., appeared in his first collegiate contest and knocked down his lone shot - a 3 in garbage time - with 1:15 remaining.

Arizona's first eight points came in the paint against an undersized LBSU squad, before York came off the bench and immediately knocked down a 3. The 6-3 sparkplug then connected on another to push the lead to double digits for the first time, 14-4, at the 13:36 mark.

The Wildcats' athleticism continued to be a problem as LBSU, although it crashed the offensive boards for 11 first-half rebounds, shot just 5 of 35 in the first 20 minutes.

A Gordon 3-pointer with 8:02 left in the first then ran the score to 24-9 and the rout was on.

York's third 3, dunks from Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson and a spin-and-basket in the lane from Ashley made it 35-13 for a Wildcats team that was in transition all half.

"As a team, we talked about our identity," Johnson said of the up-and-down pace. "Our identity is a strong defensive team - we want to be a top-10 defensive team in the country - and getting on the break. When we really push the ball, we've got a lot of people that can finish."

But they weren't done, as York hit again from deep and Johnson broke free for another jam to push the lead to 27 points.

Fittingly, Gordon capped the half with a buzzer-beating tip-in.

"He has an amazing second jump," Miller said of the star freshman. "You don't see many guys move the way he can move. He jumps once, lands - his second jump is, like, so quick and he has a knack for the ball."

The road only gets tougher for the Wildcats, who will play their first road contest Thursday at San Diego State. The Aztecs provided a stiff test in the championship game of last season's Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, but Johnson's block in the closing seconds gave UA the 68-67 win.

Two seasons ago, SDSU recorded a 61-57 win in Tucson.

"I'm looking forward to going there. I've heard about their crowd," Johnson said.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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