Arizona Basketball

Miller: Cats ‘out to prove that our team is better than the outside world thinks’

So, this is what Arizona could look like when all things – most all things – fire at the same time?

Maybe so, which gives fans – everyone – a chance to feel good about themselves after watching UA’s 82-61 win over Cal Poly on Sunday afternoon at McKale Center.

Yes, temper everything knowing that it was Cal Poly (and not say, Oregon), but this isn’t the team of the UA past. Small steps to progress are appreciated.

“We just have to do the best that we can,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said of this team after it went 2-0 in this early season. “I think we have some guys on this team that don’t start that really contribute.”

Ryan Luther gets to the basket and scores two of his 17 points. (Arizona Athletics photo)

They did their part on Sunday.
• Ira Lee, coming off his one-game suspension, provided six points and eight rebounds.
• Emmanuel Akot had four points and four rebounds, being equally aggressive on the offensive and defensive ends.
• And Dylan Smith provided a much-needed spark offensively by scoring 12 points in hitting four 3-pointers.

“I think we have some good players that don’t start the game but with that you could cultivate the hard-playing team,” Miller said. “A team that hustles and can pick up full-court and a team that on any given night might get some scoring punch from guys who don’t start. All coaches love that.”

Sunday was one of those days – where he got a lot from a lot of people. It was a mixed bag of goodies from different sources

Even as Ryan Luther said they are “like every team in the country (in) trying to figure things out.”

Luther had a game-high 17 points and five rebounds. He went an efficient 7 of 9 from the floor.

Teammate Chase Jeter was right behind him with 16 points, hitting on six of 10 shots.

Chase Jeter and Ryan Luther speak to the media after UA’s win over Cal Poly. (Rivera photo)

Both said they are feeling their way around in as much as they are new to the system, although Jeter said, “I’ve been here for a year, so I adjusted last year so I made my transition this year a lot more comfortable and more smooth.”

The star to this point had been Brandon Randolph, but on Sunday he had 10 points (15 fewer than last game), hitting just three of eight shots.

“With this year’s team we don’t have as much of a guy who will kinda fill it up on the scoreboard like we had with Allonzo (Trier), Rawle (Alkins) and Deandre (Ayton) last year. Any night or any guy can have their go. It’s not about taking turns, but the effort level needs to be there, and different guys will have to have their time.”

On Sunday, Miller pointed out it was the first time the whole team has been there. It was Lee’s first game back. Jeter had missed some time earlier after an injury and Jeter was about 50 percent for another game.

“With the three biggest guys playing well inside with Ryan Luther, Ira and Chase playing well and healthy,” Miller said, “it gives us a better chance to rebound and do some things moving forward.”

That would be winning. And playing well together.

“All of them are out to prove that our team is better than the outside world thinks,” Miller said, “whether that’s true or not remains to be seen.”

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