Many, including myself, picked Belmont to upset Arizona. Well, we couldn't have been more inaccurate. Arizona jumped out on the Bruins early and never trailed.
Ian Clark hit a three in the later moments of the first half to cut the lead to two at 16-14 but it never got any closer. The Wildcats closed the half on a 16-4 to take a 32-20 lead into the locker room.
Arizona started the half with a three pointer from Mark Lyons and the route was on.
The lead grew to 20 points as Belmont began their desperation comeback. It's something they have done several times this season to pull out wins. Yet tonight, they had dug themselves to big of a hole.
JJ Mann buried a triple to cap a 10-0 run that cut the Wildcat lead to 11 with five and a half minutes to play. But Arizona responded with big baskets down the stretch to finally put away the Bruins.
Belmont has never seen a defense like the one they saw today. Arizona was bigger and quicker than Belmont. Because of that Belmont's offensive numbers didn't even come close to what we have seen all year long. Every three they took appeared to be rushed, leading to Belmont only shooting 27% from downtown.
Trevor Noack didn't even exist in the game today. 0 points and 4 rebounds. Noack was a big part of Belmont's offense during their run through the OVC but tonight Arizona got Noack in foul trouble, forcing him to sit out 21 minutes of the game.
JJ Mann and Ian Clark still knocked down 3 threes a piece but Clark, the Co-OVC POTY, did not get the looks he's accustomed to getting in OVC play.
I know it won't shock some of you that a Pac-12 team is more athletic than most OVC teams but it's worth mentioning again because this game was won on the boards. Arizona out rebounded the much smaller Bruins 44-18. Out of those 44, 12 were of the offensive variety. Belmont only grabbed 2 offensive rebounds and both of those are credited to Brandon Baker, who only played 11 minutes.
Belmont isn't known for their shot blocking but if a team swipes their hand near the ball enough times, they'll get at least one block right? Well, the Bruins number of block shots totaled somewhere south of one.
Arizona finished with four players in double figures led by Mark Lyons' 23 points. Solomon Hill had nine points, all of them being off of 3 point shots. The biggest put the lead back up to 15 when Belmont was scrambling to comeback.
WHAT PEOPLE SAID:
Belmont is a nice basketball program ... that you should never rank in the top 25 or pick to win a game in the NCAA Tournament.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 22, 2013
Belmont will make the tournament again next year and none of you will pick them and they’ll win.— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) March 22, 2013
Another year, another four days of hype surrounding Belmont followed by a loss in their first game. Dominant performance by Arizona.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 22, 2013
Just want to take this time to thank Belmont for coming into the Ohio Valley Conference, making it look easy and then breaking the streak of 4 straight years with an OVC win in the NCAA tournament.
Seriously though, Arizona looked like a team ready to come out of the West Region. They closed out on shooters, used their size to their advantage and smothered a Belmont team who hasn't looked that frustrated in a while.
Arizona will probably take on UNM (a team many are picking for Atlanta) and if they do I wouldn't bet against them. Remember, this group of Wildcats were once a top 5 team and they may be playing like one again in March.