The Arizona Wildcats don't have a go-to guy, and against Ball State, we might have learned who's trying to fill that role.
In the 73-63 victory that saw the Wildcats outscore the Cardinals 22-8 over the final 6:40, Kyle Fogg dropped 21 points and led an emotional and inspired defense that suddenly appeared as Arizona found itself down in double-digits to BSU. It was that hounding defensive effort from Fogg -- he drew a five second call at one points -- and freshman Nick Johnson, who began picking up the Cardinals point guards the full length of the court.
Solomon Hill also answered the bell after receiving criticism during the exhibition season from head coach Sean Miller. Hill scored a crucial 3-pointer off a pass from Johnson to extend the Arizona lead to 61-55 with less than three minutes to play. Throughout, Hill crashed the boards, ending the night with 11 rebounds, three assists and a block.
But the defining moment of the night was forward Kevin Parrom making a surprise debut following his comeback after being shot in the leg on Sept. 24.
It was Parrom's 3-pointer that brought the Wildcats within one at 47-46 with 12 minutes left in the game. Miller pulled Parrom early, giving the forward a hug as he exited.
The Wildcats trailed for most of the game until taking a 56-55 lead with only six minutes left.
And from afar, lots of Arizona's early-season struggles appear to come from a lack of apprehension and fire. Of course, once they were faced with the prospect of losing to a mid-major squad in BSU, the Wildcats awakened and played a chaotic and aggressive defense that is typical of Miller's teams.
Whether Arizona pulls out that intense defense from the get-go in the next game, against a talented and athletic St. John's team, is now the big question.
Things to like
- Kevin Parrom didn't appear to be out of shape in scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds. His impact was immediate, as it gives Arizona another hard-nosed defender who can push the ball off the rebound. Plus, he already appears to be one of the few Wildcats who can hit a jump shot.
- The Wildcats had a lot more success with their drive-and-kick plays than in the past games. Their aggressiveness off the dribble was much more successful than a timid pass-it-around-the-perimeter attack.
- Fogg shot a lot over the summer. But until Sunday, it didn't appear to be the case. Arizona's leader hit 3-of-5 shots from beyond the arc and went 5-for-12 overall. He also went 8-for-9 from the foul stripe.
- The Wildcats are still without a center. Kyryl Natyazhko got beat by smaller players, and freshman Angelo Chol started the second half for Miller's squad. Yet, Chol clearly has struggled in knowing where to be on the court, especially on offense. Sidiki Johnson even got some run.
- Remember that top-ranked point guard recruit? Josiah Turner didn't play a lick, and Nick Johnson backed up starter Jordin Mayes at the point guard spot. Dog house? Probably.
- Turnovers. There were a lot in the first half.