Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
The Arizona Wildcats cleared up their identity through two similar exhibition games, this time defeating Chico State 98-60 in Tucson. Now, the challenge is growing into a contender.
The Arizona Wildcats defeated the Chico State Wildcats 98-60 in McKale Center Tuesday, and with the second and final exhibition game linked to the first, Sean Miller's team answered most of the questions we asked going into the outing.
Would Arizona's senior leaders continue their strong play all while watching their efficiency? Could Kevin Parrom bounce back from a quiet exhibition opener? And would Arizona's big men consistency produce?
Arizona's two seniors that have NBA potential were wildly efficient against the Division II Wildcats. Solomon Hill scored 18 points and made up for a poor shooting performance against Humboldt State with absolute efficiency. Along with his eight rebounds, Hill scored 13 of his points from the foul stripe on 14 attempts and hit his only two field goals in 26 minutes of play.
Meanwhile, point guard Mark Lyons hit 7-of-9 shots to lead Arizona with 20 points. He finished with four turnovers, but two of those came very early in the first half.
Arizona's aggressiveness was the best thing to see. Miller's club took 43 free throws and hit 33 of them while shooting 53.6 percent from the floor.
On the defensive end, the Wildcats did what they set out to do against a three-point happy Chico State team that took 20 shots from distance in the first half -- they only took 36 total shots -- and hit two. The D-II Wildcats only hit 23.5 percent of their three-pointers on the night and 33.8 percent overall.
Kaleb Tarczewski's follow-up to an 18-point, 10-rebound performance was one showing he was a way to go. While he scored seven points, he was more than often not involved in the game. He didn't grab a rebound in 18 minutes and had three turnovers going up against a senior 7-footer in Chico State's Jason Conrad.
The good news for the Wildcats is that their big man depth will make it OK for Miller to continue giving Tarczewski minutes to develop. The second unit pod of Angelo Chol and Brandon Ashley very well might be a better energy unit and rebounding duo than Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett. The latter scored 10, grabbed four rebounds and tallied three assists.
Chol and Ashley each grabbed six rebounds with Ashley again flexing his muscle as the team's best offensive rebounder. The 6-foot-8 freshman added seven points.
Parrom also had a strong second exhibition game, filling out the box score with 12 points, six rebounds (four of which were offensive) and three dimes.
Overall, the Wildcats have cleared up who they are as a team. They're young, talented and can blow out Division II teams with ease, something that couldn't be said last year.
Their seniors are battle-tested, and physically and mentally look like they're as engaged as they could be.
The size will take Arizona over the top. While the big men have a way to go, there's no doubt that Miller brought in three very different but equally talented players to the UA front line.
In the end, it could be the growth of Jerrett, Ashley and Tarczewski that will be the difference in where the Wildcats finish this season. But there's a chance that Hill, Lyons or even Nick Johnson -- he has not seen very many shot attempts -- breaks out come tournament time.