Arizona Basketball

Top 5 impressions of Arizona Wildcats’ exhibition victory



Just what Sean Miller wants: An inside feed to Kaleb Tarczewski, this one from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on an alley-oop (Pac-12 Networks video capture)

Just what Sean Miller wants: An inside feed to Kaleb Tarczewski, this one from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on an alley-oop (Pac-12 Networks video capture)

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The Top 5 impressions of Arizona’s exhibition victory over Cal Poly Pomona tonight while wondering if we will even remember this game come the first week of December, let alone March. …

5. Defense, not offense, wins over Sean Miller

Kadeem Allen came to Arizona as a prolific scorer from Hutchinson (Kan.) Junior College, but as Gabe York can attest, Miller wants to know how a player can defend.

Allen, who averaged 25.9 points a game last year, is the only player who did not get playing time in Arizona’s 67-51 victory Sunday night over Cal Poly Pomona at McKale Center. York hardly played in his first year in the program two years ago because he had trouble defending although he could shoot well.

Miller told the media after the exhibition that he is considering a redshirt season for Allen and that Allen supports the idea.

Miller said Allen “understands where he might end up in three years” if he redshirts.

In Arizona’s top nine rotation, each player played at least nine minutes, with power forward Brandon Ashley (29 minutes) getting the most and freshman power forward Craig Victor (9) with the least.

The transition for a junior college player to a major college program, especially one with talent at Allen’s shooting-guard position, is a difficult task. A redshirt year will do him good. It will be a season-long learning process for Allen.

4. If a team needs a kick in the pants, no better than Miller to do it.

Kevin Calabro of the Pac-12 Networks mentioned during the broadcast that Miller was livid during the shoot-around because of a lack of communication. During his press conference last week, Miller expressed concern about the lack of vocal responses during workouts.


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If players do not speak up, the help-defense breaks down and players can become lost defensively because of an unseen pick, etc.

“If you don’t talk you don’t play,” Calabro relayed what Miller said in the shoot-around.

Miller had another 15 minutes put up in the workout session and everybody supposedly spoke up.

“Like I said last week, I don’t know how far along we are,” Miller told Brian Jeffries in the postgame radio interview. “For the first 15 minutes, we were still a work in progress in certain areas.

“We can grow by leaps and bounds. Next Friday (in the season opener against Mount St. Mary’s) we’ll be much better as a team across the board. … We realize today is Nov. 9 and for some it was the first college game of their career. They can do nothing but get better.”


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High-profile recruit Stanley Johnson did not start, giving way to York. Not much should be made of that other than Miller rewarding players for their play in practice. Johnson will have his time.

3. Arizona’s guard play on defense and rebounds key to winning.

Arizona basketball coaching legend Lute Olson was always big on his guards being involved in rebounds because that hustle can lead to high-percentage, fast-break opportunities at the other end.

Miller must have the same objective and it showed with Arizona’s guards and wings — T.J. McConnell, Johnson, York and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — combining for 19 rebounds.

The Wildcats finished with a rebounding edge of 39-23.

“That’s where Arizona will overwhelm people this year,” Pac-12 Networks analyst Don MacLean said about the work on the boards.

2. Who will provide important perimeter shots other than York?

Arizona made 3 of 12 from three-point range against Pomona with York making two of them in six attempts. Johnson and Elliott Pitts attempted the other five from beyond the arc. Johnson was 1 of 3 and Pitts 0 of 2.

McConnell and backup point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright did not attempt a three-pointer. McConnell attempted only four shots overall, making one. He was most effective with his 11 assists with four turnovers in 28 minutes.

Points must be produced on the perimeter to allow Arizona’s interior players (Kaleb Tarczewski and Ashley primarily) to get better looks.

Miller expects opponents to try zone defenses, daring Arizona to shoot from the outside, such as Cal Poly Pomona used with a matchup zone throughout.

“Their defense is very good,” Miller said in his postgame radio interview with Jeffries. “They play a matchup zone. They play it the entire game, so what we just did, playing against that type of defense, playing against this type of opponent, is that we prepared as much as anything for our early schedule.

“Watching us in the second half against their zone we made more plays. We shared the ball. We got the ball closer to the basket. … You don’t just flip on the switch and look like you’re in midseason form against a very good matchup zone. It took some time but it was time well spent and it will serve us well with any team that decides to play a zone here in the month of November. I believe quite a few will mix it in.”

1. The inside game execution matters most to Miller.

Miller also said in the postgame radio interview that Arizona’s success relies on its ability to work the ball down low on offense.

“That’s this year’s team’s identity on offense as much as anything, we have to get the ball inside,” Miller told Jeffries. “When we do, a lot of good things happen.”

The frontcourt players and the slashing Hollis-Jefferson accounted for 27 of Arizona’s 52 field-goal tries. Tarczewski was 5 of 8 from the field while Ashley was 4 of 6.

“When Brandon and Kaleb get the ball inside, in particular, good things happen,” Miller said. “And Rondae as the game started to settle in, he started to be himself. … He’s along those same lines. If he gets the ball in the paint,shoots it, passes, gets offensive rebounds, finishes, good things happen.”

Hollis-Jefferson, who uncharacteristically missed a dunk in the first half, finished making 3 of 6 shots from the field. His aggressive style drew a couple of fouls and he made all four of his free-throw attempts, shimmy-shake and all. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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