Whatever Sean Miller told his team in the halftime locker room it worked. Arizona (4-0, 4-0 home) opened the second half on a 14-2 scoring run to break the game wide open as the Wildcats raced to an easy 93-50 non-conference victory over visiting Northern Arizona.
Senior forward and captain Solomon Hill.
NAU, which shot a respectable 42.3 percent from the floor in the first half to only trail Arizona 39-26 at the break, struggled to make shots in the game’s second frame. The Lumberjacks were a woeful 9-for-26 shooting after intermission (34.6%), and finished the game making just 37 percent of their field goal attempts (20-for-55). Meanwhile, Arizona sizzled all night, making 30-of-52 shots (57.7%) while building its lead to as many as 49 points in the second half.
Mark Lyons led all scorers with 18 points. He was joined in double figures by teammates Solomon Hill, Nick Johnson and Angelo Chol. Hill, who had 17 points and three rebounds, connected on several NBA range 3-Pointers while Johnson and Chol scored 10 points apiece.
Johnson was the game’s real story, though. The sophomore shooting guard dished out a career-high seven assists on a night when Arizona doled out 22 assists on 30 made baskets. Johnson also had four steals on the defensive end of the floor.
Arizona opened the game on a 9-0 scoring run and led 34-17 on a 3-Point basket by Jordin Mayes with 6:26 to play before intermission. However, the Lumberjacks closed the opening frame strong on a three-pointer by Dewayne Russell as time expired to trail 39-26 at the break.
Russell finished the night with 13 points and six rebounds. Blake Hamilton added 11 points for NAU. Gabe Rogers had seven points in the game’s opening 20 minutes, but was held scoreless after halftime.
Any thought of an upset by NAU (2-4, 0-0 Big Sky) went out the McKale Center window as Arizona quickly built a 53-28 lead with 15:49 remaining. Despite starting center Kaleb Tarczewski picking up his third foul less than a minute into the second half, Arizona got three-point baskets from Hill and Lyons during the early scoring surge. When Johnson assisted Hill on his second trey of the half to cap the 14-2 scoring run, the game was all but over with nearly 16 minutes of action to go.
Arizona led 61-37 before embarking on yet another scoring run, this time outscoring the Lumberjacks 19-2 to lead 80-39 with just over five minutes left.
Arizona outrebounded NAU 35-24 as freshman forward Brandon Ashley led the way with 11 boards. In fact, Arizona’s starting frontline served to produce 19 of the team’s 35 rebounds.
The Wildcats next play Monday, Dec. 1 at Texas Tech. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
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