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Take charge: Fogg’s defense fuels Arizona’s comeback vs. St. John’s

Kyle Fogg

Arizona's Kyle Fogg kept good care of the ball vs. St. John's, not committing a turnover. Photo by Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Arizona Wildcats senior guard Kyle Fogg is easy to take for granted. He wasn’t a big-time recruit. He’s not an athletic leaper who makes highlight dunks. He doesn’t have a killer cross-over dribble.

But he knows his way around a college basketball game — 89 career starts and counting — and he can still school a younger player such as St. John’s sophomore Nurideen Lindsey.

Lindsey often had his way with the Wildcats on Thursday night from Madison Square Garden in New York City — scoring a game-high 18 points — but Fogg had the last laugh, drawing two charging fouls late in the game.

The first came with 5:57 left. The second came with 4:02 to go … and with that, Lindsey fouled out.

Meanwhile, Arizona was using its depth and balance to wear down St. John’s, who missed the attacking Lindsey down the stretch. The Wildcats finished on a 23-6 run to win 81-72, advancing to play Mississippi State in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic on Friday night.

Assistant coach James Whitford said those two defensive plays by Fogg changed the game against St. John’s.

“(Lindsey) was absolutely killing us, going to the rim,” Whitford said on the 1290-AM postgame radio show.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Kyle. He works so hard. He represents everything you want as a coach. He’s just a phenomenal kid. For him to come in and make those two plays to foul out the game who was at the moment their best player I thought really flipped the script of the game.”

Balance and depth will be the hallmarks of this Arizona team as it finds its way on offense with Derrick Williams, and those two traits were evident vs. the Red Storm.

Arizona used 11 players. Five players scored in double figures, led by Solomon Hill’s 15. Nobody took more than nine shots.

“We talk a lot about being a deep team and playing a lot of guys; that’s how we like to do it,” Whitford said. “And part of the advantage of that is by the end of the game, we should by the fresher, more aggressive and more energized team. And I think we were.”

But no Wildcat played more minutes than Fogg.

In addition to his two key defensive plays, Fogg had 13 points, six assists, two steals and no turnovers in 33 minutes. He was 3 of 7 from 3-point range.

Fogg was coming off a game in which he had a “quiet” team-high 21 points against Ball State. Amid Kevin Parrom’s return, Fogg’s performance was so overlooked that even coach Sean Miller didn’t mention him until the 12th minute of a 15-minute postgame press conference.

“Kyle is capable. We all know that,” Miller said Sunday night. “He’s invested a lot. He’s as experienced a player as there is in college basketball. In these next two games, we’ll really rely on his leadership and his ability to play.”

So far, Miller is half right.

Arizona really did rely on Fogg against St. John’s. Now comes Mississippi State.

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