Gordon leads No. 6 Arizona past Cal Poly
Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Aaron Gordon paced a balanced Arizona offense attack with 13 points as the No. 6 Wildcats posted a 73-62 season-opening victory over Cal Poly at the McKale Center.
The heralded freshman added a game-high 10 rebounds and blocked four shots in an impressive collegiate debut.
"I missed too many free throws but I was a little nervous at first," Gordon said. "I finally told myself that basketball is basketball no matter what level or where you play at, it's always the same game."
Five other Arizona (1-0) players scored in double figures, with Gabe York netting 12 points and Brandon Ashley, Nick Johnson and Kaleb Tarczewski finishing with 11. Ashley pulled down nine rebounds to help the Wildcats record a 34-26 advantage on the glass.
Kyle Odister hit 7-of-14 shots from 3-point range in a 21-point effort for Cal Poly (0-1), which went 11-of-26 from beyond the arc and stayed within striking distance for much of the contest. Chris Eversley and Dave Nwaba had 17 and 12 points, respectively, in the loss.
"For us to come into a top-five atmosphere, we have to play A-plus," Cal Poly coach Joe Callero said. "We played a solid first half, but it's a 40-minute game and it doesn't matter how close you are at halftime. Their execution and athleticism wore us down."
The Mustangs have knocked off a Pac-12 team on the road in each of the past two seasons, and were bidding for yet another upset after trailing 37-36 during the early stages of the second half.
Arizona then put together an 11-3 run to gain some separation, with York beginning the flurry with a 3-pointer and later capping it with a layup after a Cal Poly turnover that staked the Wildcats to a 48-39 lead with 14 minutes left.
The Mustangs continued to battle and closed within 51-45 on an Eversley trey with 11:54 to go. Johnson knocked down a jumper just over a minute afterward, however, and Gordon converted a traditional 3-point play on Arizona's next possession to push the margin to 11.
Arizona kept the determined Mustangs at bay the rest of the way, with York's triple with 2:41 to go restoring a double-digit margin at 68-56.
Cal Poly's markmanship from beyond the arc enabled it to stay with the Wildcats throughout the entire first half. The Mustangs went 6-for-12 from long distance for the period, with Eversley accounting for the last of those makes to trim the Wildcats' lead to 35-34 with 46 seconds to go in the frame.
Poor free throw shooting from Arizona also helped the Mustangs hang around, though Ashley hit both his bonus shots in the final seconds of the half to send the Wildcats into the break up by three and end his team's subpar 8-of-18 success rate from the stripe over the initial 20 minutes on a high note.
Arizona owned an advantage as large as seven points on two occasions during the opening half, the last a 26-19 edge with 6:19 left. The Mustangs responded with a 6-0 spurt over the next two minutes, however, and closed within one on Nwaba's fastbreak dunk off a steal.
Arizona finished 20-of-36 from the foul line, while Cal Poly went 11-of-13 ... The Mustangs topped then-No. 11 UCLA in Westwood last season and downed USC on the road the previous year ... The schools were meeting for the first time since a 66-65 UA win on Dec. 17, 1957 ... The Wildcats will face their second straight Big West foe when they host Long Beach State on Monday.
11/09 02:25:35 ET