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TUCSON, Ariz. – Coming off a so-so opener, Arizona soared out of the gates against Long Beach State, hounding the 49ers defensively while flying in for dunks off alley-oop passes and 3-pointers at the other end.
The 49ers couldn't match the Wildcats' effort and the game quickly turned into rout.
Long Beach State fell into a big early hole and dug itself deeper with poor shooting, leading to a 91-57 loss to the sixth-ranked Wildcats on Monday night.
"Arizona came out with a passion and they came out playing harder than us," said Dan Jennings, who led Long Beach State with 16 points. "They did well."
After an uninspired opener against Cal Poly, Arizona (2-0) looked more like the team everyone expected, dominating Long Beach State from the opening tip.
Freshman Aaron Gordon led the way with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Brandon Ashley had 16 points.
Gabe York, a little-used player a year ago, made four 3-pointers to finish with 14 points and six assists. Nick Johnson added 14 points, T.J. McConnell had eight assists and Arizona shot 58 percent from the field.
The defense trigged it all.
Playing coach Sean Miller's aggressive man defense to near perfection, the Wildcats barely gave Long Beach State room to breathe, much less get off good shots while racing to an early double-digit lead.
Arizona's defense flustered the 49ers, leading to numerous airballs and shots that caromed high off the glass.
Long Beach State (1-1) hit a few shots in the second half when the game was well out of reach, but still finished at 27 percent from the field and made 5 of 23 from 3-point range.
"Our identity is to be an outstanding defensive team," Miller said. "That feeds into our fast break and you saw that."
Long Beach State lost to Arizona 94-72 at the McKale Center last season and has just four returning players this season after coach Don Monson did not invite back three who were expected to be contributors this season.
In rebuilding mode, it was always going to be a tough matchup for the 49ers.
And it was.
Long Beach State missed 12 of its first 13 shots — three on airballs — and was down 10 points in the first 7 minutes. The 49ers shot 5 of 35 in the first half, including 1 of 14 from 3-point range, leaving no chance of a comeback.
"We talked about our identity as a team and we want to be a strong defensive team and we want to be able to get out on the break," Johnson said. "When we push the ball, we've got a lot of people who can finish in transition. We know that's going to a big part of our game all year."
Gordon and McConnell got the rout started.
McConnell got it rolling by snaring a pass near the baseline and floating an alley-oop pass to Gordon, who threw it down emphatically.
McConnell set up York for a 3-pointer with an up-fake, while Gordon scored on a putback and an acrobatic reverse.
Gordon stroked in a 3-pointer, on a feed from McConnell, and scored on a putback at the buzzer for 11 points at halftime. McConnell had seven assists and York hit four 3-pointers for 12 points to help Arizona build a 44-18 halftime lead.
"They got a couple of fast break points and that got going," said Long Beach State guard Mike Caffey, who had six points on 2-of-10 shooting after scoring 27 in the 49ers' opener. After that, they kept rolling."