Arizona Basketball

It’s ‘baptism by fire’ for Arizona Wildcats but that’s a good thing right now

What’s to make of a team when you’d expect a blowout and don’t get it? Well, a good game that you can work with for the next game. What do blowouts do for a team anyway except for it to get fat and happy?

Hell, I’m all for that … ‘tis the season.

But Arizona needs to be tested – by anyone. And strangely, surprisingly Grand Canyon tested the hometown Wildcats.

Arizona will be better off for it. Figure that last week everyone was raving about how good a shooting performance it was when it hit 13 of 24 3-pointers.

Sean Miller addresses the media after 64-54 win over Grand Canyon (Steve Rivera/

But I’ve often said: Every game is a season and one doesn’t mean the next will be the same as the one before. Figure UA went 4 for 13 from behind the arc on Wednesday in its 64-54 win.

Remember that it’s how you play that day … or night.

Here are three things we learned from Wednesday’s game vs. Grand Canyon.

UA kept composed

Grand Canyon was physical against Arizona and UA handled it. To be fair, Arizona should have handled it given the disparity in the talent. But UA coach Sean Miller talked about how physical the game was and how UA was able to handle it.

“I’m happy we were able to win,” Miller said. “This will help our basketball team grow and mature as we go to Houston for our next game with Texas A & M and conference play.”

Miller said it was as physical a game as UA has been in all season.

“It caught us off guard for awhile,” Miller said.

The kids will be alright

UA’s freshmen have been placed in a “baptism by fire” according to Miller.

Then again they have no choice given the few scholarships available. But Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons and Lauri Markkanen have shown they can do plenty of the work.

“The role of our three freshmen cannot be understated,” Miller said. “We are depending on them to make scouting decisions that are usually reserved for an older player. They are good players playing heavy minutes. They have to score and play well for our team to win. It’s bringing out the best of them.”

Markkanen and Alkins each had 11 points. Simmons had 13, but went 2 for 7 from the floor. They combined to shoot 9 for 30, but combined to grab 18 rebounds.

The line of the night came when Miller talked about Alkins being tough.

“He’s from Brooklyn,” Miller said, kind of wanting to give a smirk. “That’s who he is. Our identity is to be that type of team where we’re not going to back down. We’re going to be physical, tough-minded and we’re going to find a way to win.”

Speaking of identity

Miller continues to say his team “is a work in progress.” But to be fair, every team in the country is given it’s just 11 games into the season. Who knows what you have until mid-February? And given UA’s depth issues – which may be relieved if Allonzo Trier comes back – who knows what this team will be like?

So, through 11 games just what is UA’s identity?

Kobi Simmons & Dusan Ristic discuss what went right on Wednesday (Steve Rivera/

“I think we have a tough team,” Miller said. “I think we have a lot of hard-nosed guys that don’t back down from challenge.”

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