The course of Arizona’s home contest with Utah Valley last Thursday night turned on the right hand of sophomore guard Brandon Randolph.
It was Randolph’s shooting touch that guided a second half Wildcats surge that stirred the venerable McKale Center into a frenzy, hitting four-of-five three pointers to pace the Wildcats 51-38 advantage in the game’s latter half.
The home side’s fate looked glum early on, with the visiting Wolverines (6-4) hitting 42.6 percent of their shots, while forcing 11 turnovers to secure a 31-29 lead at the half.
The tide took a sharp turn in the immediate aftermath of the break, however, when Randolph drained three straight three point shots to cut the Wolverines’ lead to one with 18:06 to play.
Randolph, who finished the night with a team-high 16 points, described his second half surge as a feat he won’t soon forget.
“I definitely got going,” Randolph said. “My teammates found me, and it hyped me up, the crowd up, hyped our whole team up, and I think it helped us move into the game a little more.”
By the end of the night, the Wildcats secured an 80-69 victory,
Arizona’s (7-2) win over the Wolverines extended their non-conference home win streak to 52 games, with the last loss coming in 2011 when San Diego State beat the Wildcats, 61-57.
Arizona coach Sean Miller gave Utah Valley its share of acclaim for their strong first half, saying his team wasn’t ready to fight a scrappy Wolverines squad.
Miller said their early struggles were more a result of the Wolverines defense than any sort of letdown from Sunday’s 76-72 road victory over the University of Connecticut.
“We didn’t really get after them at halftime and that might be surprising,” Miller said. “Our team doesn’t have a great margin of error, especially against a team with skill and as experienced as Utah Valley… This wasn’t a situation where we were still thinking about our UConn victory, it was just the opposite. We had excellent practices, our guys understood that Utah Valley has great size, unbelievable skill level, and they run their offense as well as any team we have faced this season. We knew we were in for a fight and it was great for us to respond the way we did at halftime.”
Randolph and freshman guard Brandon Williams were the main players in Arizona’s victory, with the latter scoring 15 points and pulling down a career-high 10 rebounds in the win.
The 6 foot 2 inch guard was surprised by his first collegiate double-double, saying that his teammates had to inform him of his impressive feat.
“When someone told me on the bench, I was shocked when they said I had a double-double,” he said. “I thought it was assists.”
The Wildcats lost on th road, 76-73, Sunday, Dec. 9 to the University of Alabama.
The Wildcats return to Tucson to face the Baylor Bears (5-3) at 9 p.m. Arizona time this Saturday, Dec. 15. The game will be carried on ESPN 2.