Whether it was by chance or happenstance, Arizona sure did look good with Parker Jackson-Cartwright back in the starting lineup.
And not that they didn’t look all that bad from beginning to end in its first exhibition win over Eastern New Mexico on Wednesday, but UA looked really good under the cool and steady control of PJC in the team’s 91-53 win over Chico State on Sunday.
“It’s good,” said Allonzo Trier when asked about having PJC back after he suffered an ankle sprain recently. “Having that senior guard, that leadership and a guy who really knows what coach wants out of us that’s a big plus and a great thing.”
Jackson-Cartwright brings a sense of calmness to a team already full of talent that now needs some guidance, although you’d never know it after they looked like they were in mid-season form on Sunday.
Even if you temper your enthusiasm for a team that starts the season at No. 3 in the country, Arizona looked very good on a number of levels: efficiency (65 percent from the floor), sharing the ball (21 assists), steadiness (10 turnovers) and so much more.
Credit everyone – even with three players down in that freshman Brandon Randolph (concussion), Dylan Smith (disciplinary) and Rawle Alkins (injury) – with how good UA looked. Trier had a game-high 22 points, stud freshman Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 11 rebounds and PJC had 14 points on four shots.
That’s four shots, hitting two 3s and 4 of 6 free throws. Parker wasn’t made available to the media after the game, but in reality he didn’t have to talk. His play did it for him, as did his teammates.
“Parker does a good job of setting the tone for us,” Trier said, “what we’re try to do and what we’re trying to execute. (and that’s) either by pushing the ball or getting us into certain sets. He means everything to our team being one of the older guys. He took our team to bigger heights.”
Again, temper that by knowing it was Chico State and not Texas A&M. Still, Arizona was “playing good basketball” as Trier pointed out.
It showed in the numbers. Chico State was out of it when it started as UA jumped out to a 13-0 lead. UA eventually shot 68 percent in the first half and UA looked like it was in midseason form – even with so many players already out.
“We’re just young kids playing basketball,” Trier said.
It was a game that left coach Sean Miller “pleased and happy” because of the improvement the team made in four days. At this stage, improvement is crucial as UA begins the regular season on Friday.
“That’s as efficient as we’ve been,” Miller said.
The return of PJC was clearly obvious in how UA improved.
“He’s a pass-first point guard and he’s been a lot of big games,” Miller said, rolling out PJC’s resume. “He’s gone through adversity and injuries. You can’t take for granted that type of experience. He knows what to do and how to do it.”
Sunday, he proved it – even in a subtle way.