Not long into his postgame press conference Sean Miller was as candid as he could be: Arizona’s exhibition game had a “funny vibe“ to it.
And not in an LOL way but in an it’s the first game way.
It was a game where it “was something we can learn from,” he said.
Translation: This team will be a work in progress – but what team isn’t at this time of year?
It didn’t help that two of the team’s best two players – or one would seem to think – Devonaire Doutrive and Zeke Nnaji were out against Chico State, a Div. II team UA struggled to beat 74-65 in McKale Center.
Their absence does hurt the form and function of a team that still has a long way to go. Still, what is won in November? The last I check was not much.
And then there’s the fact that Jemarl Baker hasn’t practiced much because of an injury but has gained NCAA clearance.
“He’s nowhere near where I believe he’s going to be,” Miller said.
That can be said for the entire team.
Sean Miller after Arizona's 74-65 exhibition win over Chico State, via @Wildcats1290: "We learned a lot about our team, and if you think about, that's what tonight was all about."
— Anthony Gimino (@AGWildcatReport) November 2, 2019
Arizona’s defense was – at times – tough to watch and, well, so what’s its offense.
They did look good in transition (Something I wish I’d see more often and always have).
But a win is a win.
“You want to play well and whatever the score is you live with,” Miller said.
He did add later, there are “probably more questions than we (have) answers to but that’s OK. That’s our job as a coaching staff. We have to clean up a few things.”
He said closeouts need to be better as well as defending the 3-point line – among others.
“You’re playing with fire when 10 of them (3-pointers) go in,” Miller said.
Again, it’s only November.
“We have a lot of guys doing things for the first time,” Miller said.
He said Nnaji is important to the team’s defense because of his quickness and is a good rebounder.
And it would seem Doutrive, who is indefinitely suspended, can help the offense with his aggressiveness and spark.
“Hopefully, he can learn,” said Miller, who didn’t go into detail about the suspension.
As for Nnaji, it’s said to be an ankle sprain and not considered serious. But it “made no sense” for Nnaji to play in order to get him ready for next week’s season opener.
For UA – and, well, every team – it’s still way early. And that’s why you have exhibition games.
“Our biggest thing is we’ve just got to play hard,” senior center Chase Jeter said. He added things are easily fixable.
After all, it’s only November.