One week after moving up to the No. 1 spot in the polls, Arizona survived one of its toughest challenges to date and escaped with a 72-70 road win over Michigan.
The Wolverines were looking for their first win over a top-ranked team since beating Duke in 1997, but the Wildcats came back from 11 points down to earn an impressive win.
Brandon Ashley led the way for Arizona with 18 points, while three players added 14 in a balanced offensive effort.
Glenn Robinson III had 20 points but was unable to help Michigan pull out a victory.
The Wildcats dominated the boards in this contest, outrebounding their opponent 37-24, including 17 offensive rebounds. While the home team shot better from the field, the extra opportunities ended up deciding the game.
Michigan used the home crowd to get off to a strong start in this game. The first half started with a quick pace and it led to the Wolverines getting a lot of open looks from deep.
With about seven minutes left in the first half, the Wolverines turned a one-point lead into an eight-point lead with three three-point baskets around a pair of Brandon Ashley free throws. They kept up the aggressiveness and went into halftime up 37-28, thanks mostly to 16 points from Glenn Robinson III.
However, Arizona would not go away quietly and started to utilize its advantage in the low post, as noted by Nicole Auerbach of USA Today:
It appears Arizona has remembered its size/length/advantage in the paint.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) December 14, 2013
Still, the Wildcats had a hard time competing in a tough environment in only their second true road game of the year. The Michigan Twitter account was proud to announce the fans were quite loud:
Michigan D forces a shot clock violation. It's loud in here.— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) December 14, 2013
Just when the Wolverines appeared to be set to pull away, however, Arizona came storming back and eventually took the lead with just over three minutes left on a three-point play by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
After some more lead changes, Nick Johnson put the Wildcats in front with two free throws with 25 seconds left. The final seconds became a free-throw shooting contest and Michigan could only get a late heave to win, which went wide.
While there is no shame in losing to the No. 1 team in the country, this is yet another disappointing loss in a rough start to the season for Michigan.
As for Arizona, this continues what could be a special season after moving to 11-0 on the year. This win proved not only the team's physical ability but also mental toughness after coming from behind in a tough environment.
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan: B
From the start of the game, it finally appeared that Robinson was becoming the type of player everyone knows he is capable of being. He took control of the offense and scored 16 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the first half.
Both Jeff Goodman and Jay Williams of ESPN were hoping to see this effort more often.
When Glenn Robinson III plays with assertiveness, Michigan is a different team. Needs to do it consistently.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) December 14, 2013
Glen Robinson III needs to have this killer mentality every day. This is who he should be 24/7 for Michigan & to make it to the next level.— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) December 14, 2013
Their greatest fear was realized when Robinson scored only four points in the second half while Arizona crawled back into the game. This could end up being a big problem for the Wolverines this year.
Caris LeVert, Michigan: A-
In a game where Nik Stauskus was not scoring like usual (14 points on 4-for-11 shooting), LeVert did his best to take over offensively for the Wolverines.
The guard finished with 15 points while getting shots off from virtually everywhere on the floor. Although LeVert has been inconsistent this year, he has proven the ability to come up big against tough opponents.
Considering he is still just a sophomore who did not play much last year, he has the potential to be a big-time contributor for this team.
Aaron Gordon, Arizona: A+
Although he is not a go-to option, Gordon always finds a way to showcase his impressive athleticism and wide skill set on the offensive end.
On the other hand, he is really underrated for his defensive work. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead pointed out the work he did on Robinson:
Aaron Gordon is the Zona stopper. Remember how he slowed Jabari Parker? Arizona has him on GR3 this half. GR3 lit up Ashley 1st half— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) December 14, 2013
This skill will be incredibly valuable going forward for the Wildcats as they look to contend with the best teams in the nation this season.
Nick Johnson, Arizona: B+
This was far from Johnson's best game, but he did what was necessary to help his team when it counted. The team's leading scorer on the season finished with 14 points, with most of them coming in the final minutes.
Most importantly, he nailed all of his free throws down the stretch to put his team in front and hold onto the lead.
Considering Johnson was able to contribute five rebounds and four assists also, this was a solid day of work for the guard.
Things do not get much easier for Michigan as it takes on Stanford in their next game. The squads will battle at the Barclays Center on Dec. 21 in the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational.
Arizona returns home for an easy non-conference stretch beginning with Southern University. The team starts its Pac-12 schedule on Jan. 2 at home against Washington State.
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