Created: 12/03/2013 11:06 PM
(AP) TUCSON, Ariz. - One thing Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith had hammered home to his team was to hit the boards hard against Arizona.
So what happened?
Smith’s Red Raiders get outrebounded 43-23 on Tuesday night in a 79-58 loss to the second-ranked Wildcats.
"Obviously our guys aren’t hearing what the scouting report is saying about rebounding," Smith said. "That was the No. 1 thing we said we had to do."
That’s a tough order against Arizona’s front line.
"We did terrible," Tech’s Aaron Ross said. "That’s something Coach always tells us in practice which is to rebound, rebound, box out, rebound. We should have done better, so we have to keep practicing in order to get better."
Freshman Aaron Gordon scored 19 points and Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley added 18 each for the Wildcats who were playing for the first time since winning the NIT Season Tip-off.
The Wildcats didn’t think they played all that great.
"I mean, a win’s a win so you’re always happy about that," point guard T.J. McConnell said. "But I think we played a little sluggish. We all know we could have played a little bit better."
Johnson, the NIT Season Tip-off’s MVP, made a career-best 4 3-pointers in 6 attempts.
Ashley grabbed 10 rebounds, one shy of his career high, and made both of his 3-point tries.
The Wildcats (8-0) scored the first 10 points of the game and led by 10 points after a sloppy first half. They were up by as many as 23 points in the second half.
Ross said the experience will benefit the Red Raiders greatly as conference play begins.
"It will have a great impact because we have now played against one of the best," he said. "In the Big 12, there are a couple of top 10 teams. We just played against the No. 2 team and now we know what is going to come up so we won’t be surprised by it when it does."
Arizona moved up two spots to second in the poll this week after the win over Duke at Madison Square Garden last Friday. The Wildcats took eight hours to get home, having to make two refueling stops on the way, and Arizona coach Sean Miller was a bit concerned about how his team would come out Tuesday.
Arizona wasn’t at its best but was good enough to win by a comfortable margin.
"No question we could have played better at times," Miller said, "but it’s a long season and it’s difficult to ask for perfection in every game from start to finish."
Kader Tapsoba and Jaye Crockett scored 11 points each for the Red Raiders (6-3) and Ross added 10.
It was the highest-scoring game of the season for Gordon, who was 7 of 10 from the field but just 4 of 12 from the free throw line. He had eight rebounds. McConnell had 10 assists, one short of his career best.
Leading 35-25 at halftime, Arizona opened the second half with a 12-2 run. After Gordon’s dunk, McConnell stole the ball in the backcourt and passed to Johnson, who made his fourth 3-pointer to put the Wildcats ahead 44-27 with 17:15 to play. Ashley’s two free throws capped the run and put the Wildcats up 47-27 with 16:35 to go.
Texas Tech, in its first season under Smith, never got closer than 15 points after that.
"They play hard and they made shots tonight," he said of the Wildcats. "You get that type of outside shooting along with a guy like Aaron who is just a tough matchup for anybody. They are very talented, the best team we have played so far. I thought Pittsburgh was pretty good but this is a tough place to play."
The Red Raiders don’t play again until Dec. 15, when they are home against Central Arkansas.