LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 26: Jesse Perry #33 of the Arizona Wildcats drives against Niyi Harrison #31 of the Santa Clara Broncos during the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational at The Orleans Arena November 26 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. Arizona won 82-59. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Sean Miller doesn't believe his team is the third-best squad in the Pac-12 Conference. A loss to Seattle Pacific and then an ugly 60-51 win against Humboldt State on Tuesday evening showed that the Arizona Wildcats have improvements to be made.
At least Tuesday, they showed that they're capable of improving.
The Falcons of Seattle Pacific out-hustled the Wildcats and won because they controlled the paint. Toward the end of the win against HSU, Arizona began to show a sense of urgency. And throughout, UA dominated the rebounding numbers and drew fouls. Arizona out-rebounded the Lumberjacks 48-23.
The aggressiveness -- not effectiveness -- was there, and a win followed.
The Wildcats shot 41 percent from the field but held HSU to only 33 percent. Free throw shooting saved Arizona, as it took 36 as a team but only hit 20 of those for a lowly 56 percent from the foul stripe. That's a sign that the Wildcats outplayed Humboldt State by more than the final score showed, but it also could scare Miller, who's offseason shooting regiments apparently haven't taken shape in game situations.There were GOOD SIGNS.
After the center position totaled two boards last Thursday, Kyryl Natyazhko showed some major hustle throughout. He scored on two tip-ins off offensive boards in the first half, flung himself to the floor to keep Arizona's possessions in the seconds, and pulled down 12 rebounds.
Jesse Perry led the way with a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds himself.
In the backcourt, freshman point guard Josiah Turner showed flashes of brilliance, making the right decisions in the fastbreak, getting to the bucket with ease and repeatedly tossing beautiful passes to his big men off of pick-and-rolls. Turner ended the game with only three assists, but the opportunities missed could've put that number at six or seven dimes.
TROUBLING TRENDS continued for Arizona as well.
Shooting, of course, was the largest. But much of that came in the first half, behind stale motion offense and a lack of assertiveness -- it looked like Miller will have to pull teeth to find a player on this roster who will want to create shots off the dribble (Turner and fellow freshman Nick Johnson might be the best at that so far).
Kyle Fogg struggled with his shooting again, going 2-for-8 for five points. Solomon Hill only attempted four shots -- I think he should be more aggressive -- and scored eight points. Johnson and Turner also scored eight points apiece.
The team committed 20 turnovers, so considering that and the poor shooting, this game could have been closer to a blowout.
Who else will be in the BIG MAN ROTATION?
Freshman Sidiki Johnson definitely didn't work his way out of a big hole, showing poor defensive effort, ugly offense and poor shot selection. He airballed a three-point attempt off the first pass in the halfcourt in the second half and was promptly replaced by freshman Angelo Chol.
Chol might be an answer to split time with Natyazhko at center though. He scored five straight points in his second-half stretch and also showed an aptitude for helping to defend offensive penetration.