Forward Brandon Ashley and the No. 1 Wildcats struggled in the first half Saturday before rallying to win.
If there’s any obstacle left for the unbeaten Arizona Wildcats heading toward the new year, maybe it’s the potential for overconfidence.
The Wildcats (11-0) could become a unanimous No. 1 selection in The Associated Press Top 25 poll today, and they will be expected to hold on to the top ranking at least until they play at UCLA on Jan. 9.
They’ll spend finals week being told how great they are and, when they break for Christmas after facing NAU on Dec. 23, they’ll go home and be told how great they are some more.
But sophomore forward Brandon Ashley has a cure for all of that: the game videos.
Like the one from the Drexel game, when UA trailed by nine at halftime. The UNLV contest, when the lead changed hands 18 times. And even UA’s 72-70 win over host Michigan on Saturday, when the Wildcats allowed Glenn Robinson III to drop 16 points before halftime as UA trailed by nine.
That’s what Ashley was focusing on despite the sky-high atmosphere as the Wildcats prepared to leave the Crisler Center on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Honestly, I don’t feel this was our best game of the season,” he said. “We played one half pretty well and other half struggled. We’re still trying to put together a complete game this season but we’ll get there.”
Ashley said shooting has been the problem and defense sometimes the other. Saturday, they had a little of both.
The Wildcats shot just 34.4 percent in the first half against Michigan, shooting only five three-pointers, of which they made two.
“I would say our offense is best when we move it around,” guard Nick Johnson said. “Obviously, we love to run in transition, but when we don’t have that, we have to set screens, and (move the ball). We’ve got to keep working on that the whole season.”
Defensively, UA let Robinson hit all seven field goals he took before halftime, from all over the floor.
What saved the Wildcats was that Johnson kept Michigan sharpshooter Nik Stauskas without a field goal in the first half and to only 1-of-4 three-point shooting overall.
“I think Nick is one of the premier defensive players … he made Stauskas earn his baskets,” Miller said. “He was on it and he made a statement.”
Meanwhile, Aaron Gordon shifted over on Robinson for the second half, while Ashley covered wing Caris LeVert.
Robinson only took two shots in the second half and missed one of them.
“We talked a lot about (Robinson) at half,” Miller said. “Aaron guarded him for most of the second half and Aaron is long and determined. He did a really good job individually, and our team did a really good job.”
Most of the time. To stay No. 1 for the long haul, the way Ashley looks at it, the Wildcats may need more.
“Having the No. 1 spot is definitely something to cherish,” Ashley said. “We’re definitely looking forward to holding it as long as we can.”