Arizona's Aaron Gordon (11) dribbles the ball away from Fairleigh Dickinson's Matt MacDonald (3) in the first half of an college NCAA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 in Tucson, Ariz. This is in the first round of the NIT. (AP Photo/John Miller)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 1:11 am
Wildcats roll over FDU 100-50 in NIT opener
By JOHN MARSHALLAP Basketball Writer
Arizona (4-0) allowed the Knights to stay close early before blowing open the game with runs of 18-3 and 18-2 in the first half, keyed by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and T.J. McConnell.
Hollis-Jefferson finished with 13 points, McConnell had nine assists with one turnover and Arizona shot 54 percent to help Sean Miller become the fifth coach to win 100 games in Tucson.
The Wildcats move on to face Rhode Island on Tuesday night with a trip to Madison Square Garden on the line.
Sidney Sanders Jr. had 16 points to lead Fairleigh Dickinson (1-3), which shot 31 percent.
Arizona followed easy opening wins over Cal Poly and Long Beach State by passing its first test of the season, winning 69-60 at San Diego State on Thursday.
The Wildcats weren't expected to face much of a challenge in the two games at the McKale Center before heading to New York for the semifinals next week.
Fairleigh Dickinson had been outscored by an average of 25 points in 11 straight losses to ranked opponents since 1996 and had lost 10 straight overall on the road after falling 74-60 at Hartford on Friday.
The Knights didn't seem intimidated by the opponent or playing in one of college basketball's most difficult road venues in the early going, though, aggressively driving to the basket and confidently pulling up for 3-pointers.
Sanders, FDU's 5-foot-11 point guard, repeatedly took his man off the dribble to get to the rim, scoring eight points in the first 5 minutes to keep the Knights tied at 10.
Then Hollis-Jefferson took over.
The left-hander wasn't quite as heralded as teammate Aaron Gordon coming in, but was still one of the nation's best incoming freshmen.
Hollis-Jefferson showed off his all-around game against FDU, blocking a shot, scoring on hard drive and hustling to keep another possession alive with two rebounds. He followed with a soaring rebound slam, then put Arizona up 25-13 on a three-point play by getting an off-balance shot to fall after being hit on a drive.
Then it was McConnell's turn.
He set up York for a 3-pointer with a baseline drive-and-kick, had a steal that led to a tomahawk dunk by York and set up another basket with a no-look pass in transition.
McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson punctuated the first half together: An alley pass from the point guard to the freshman, who brought the crowd to its feet with a dunk over FDU's Mathias Seilund.
Hollis-Jefferson had 11 points, McConnell had five assists and Arizona led 51-24 after making 18 of 32 shots.