The Cats started the week of Christmas by giving the Colonials a brief tour of the dangers of the desert before they continued on their trek across America. It was a thorny, painful and difficult trip for the Colonials, like bunking with cousins you don't get along with. In the end about the best thing you could suggest about it is that the food wasn't too bad. Arizona took some time but their advantages in the contest (size and quantity) proved telling in the end.
Tonight Jesse Perry was rewarded with his first start. He seized the opportunity to give another steady performance with 16 points and 4 boards. The best production from the 4 position to date. It appears that he is ready to do the dirty work on the boards that Jamelle Horne cannot do (who is playing out of position in his defense as he really is a three). The Cats started somewhat tentatively allowing Robert Morris to initiate tempo after the first five minutes of the game and were not as aggressive as needed on the glass. That kept the Colonials in the game throughout the first half with feisty efforts from their bench players (Anthony Myers and Lawrence Bridges) doing exactly what Arizona has done much of the year, team effort, team basketball. Despite their best efforts to get the game closer, the Cats managed to impose their will defensively upon the Colonials and went to half with a ten point lead.
The second half started out like the first half, the Cats scored the first few points early but then sustained their efforts to take Robert Morris out of the game by about 12 minutes left when they had extended the lead from 10 points at the half to 28 points. The Cats asserted themselves on the boards, giving themselves second chance opportunities and limiting those said same opportunities for the Colonials. They kept the Colonials two best players, Karon Abraham and Russell Johnson, out of double digits and limited the Colonials to under 35% shooting from the field. Momo Jones looked more at ease running the offense, showing more maturity on when to dish and when to penetrate and Kyle Fogg had another strong performance with 11 points. Derrick Williams was his usual self, finishing just shy of a double-double with19 points, 9 boards. The bench also played its part, with Kyryl Natyazhko with 8 boards, Kevin Parrom with 5 assists and additional scoring from both Brendon Lavender and Jamelle Horne (9 and 7 respectively). We'll have to wait and see how the new lineups shake out, but Coach Miller continues to say that the starter positions will be based on game performance and effort in practice, so I wouldn't consider this set in stone just yet as their continues to be very little performance difference between those starting and those coming in off the bench.
Inside the Box Score....
The Cats came back to win the battle of the boards 38 to 32, plus they handed out more assists and had fewer turnovers, all favorable trends. Brendon Lavender hit three treys lasy night, hopeful signs that he is developing a more reliable shooting touch during game time. The bench contributions are telling in that the Cats had 28 points, 9 of the 17 assists, only three of the turnovers and 16 rebounds. If this kind of help continues from this quarter, it should help the team immensely during the usual trials and tribulations of capricious PAC 10 officiating.