Coach Bob Burton should be quite pleased with himself. He had a game plan and his players executed it and if there hadn't been a certain amount of home cooking going on, his squad might have well pulled off a pretty significant upset. The plan was, if things got tough, go zone on defense and attack the rim on offense. His team did just that and while the Cats kept the lead in double digits throughout much of the game, they couldn't put away a scrappy Titans team that played disciplined basketball tonight. This isn't to say that the Cats were dominated, they weren't, but they were outshout from the field and at the stripe, but the big difference maker in this affair was the advantage at the Free Throw line and Arizona's dominance of the boards.
By going with a zone defense, the Titans were able to frustrate the Cats bread and butter of letting Derrick Williams wreak havoc on other teams in the paint. This was despite the size advantage that the Cats enjoyed. The Fullerton defense was active and made passes into the paint and penetration a chancy endeavor as witnessed by MoMo Jones and Derrick Williams each having four turnovers, many of them in the first half. Jones came mainly from passes into the paint and Williams from putting the ball on the floor once a pass reached him. It was simple and effective and coupled with the Cats inconsistency in shooting their way out of the zone, it allowed Fullerton to stay close most of the game. The relentlessness of the Cats on the boards, allowed many second chances and allowed the Cats to keep their distance, but there were times when the Titans got the lead down to six points and they were only one errant pass of ill timed shot away from being able to make the game a one possession affair.
This isn't to say that there weren't bright spots... Kevin Parrom may have possibly had his best game as a Wildcat, being a force from the field and on the boards with an admirable line in the box score that showed 12 points in 18 minutes, with 4 assists, 4 boards, two steals and a block to his credit. The bench continues to show how critical they are to the team's success this year with 20 points being kicked in from the non-starters and as the season develops, the folks coming in off the bench seem more like Team B versus players who are a notch below those in the starting lineup. We can continue to expect Coach Miller to exploit this happy circumstance as the season continues to unfold, although the lack of a consistent zone killer continues to be an issue for the team as the team shoots better from beyond the arc in man situations, its as if there's an added bit of pressure on the team to show that they can make the other team pay for going zone. Instilling that confidence apparently will take some time as a game like this will serve as a possible blueprint for other teams to follow.
The struggles tonight could also be in part of the Cats overlooking the Titans a bit with BYU on the near horizon as there may be just a few Wildcats sporting some bruised feelings after last year's somewhat lackluster performance. With the first true road game test coming up, its quite possible that the focus wasn't entirely evident in the way that the team executed in the first twenty minutes tonight. These are the types of games that caused the team to stumble in the recent past and the fact that the team was still able to secure a victory despite not having their best performance should give many doubters pause regarding the talent on this team. This is a complex structure, while some parts may be regarded as being more important than others, it still is evident that our team is much more than a one trick pony.
The team was led by Derrick Williams 22 points, with only Kevin Parrom breaking double digits in scoring. Derrick also led the assault on the boards with 10 rebounds but this was a team effort as Arizona dominated the glass 36-19 with a whopping 16 offensive boards. The 'Cats improve to 8-1 and Fullerton drops to 3-6. Next up for the Cats is BYU @ 4PM on the 11th.