Refreshing as it was for the Arizona Wildcats to see Sean Miller's team play with a true point guard, Monday night's 84-52 exhibition win against Augustana showed every other bit of how the season is expected to go.
Point guard T.J. McConnell hit the first Arizona bucket of the game, forced two turnovers early and also penetrated and kicked out to find his teammates, the defense already moving and out of position. He finished with 12 points, eight assists and three steals.
Shooting guards Nick Johnson and Gabe York led the scoring onslaught with 14 each, and it was York's in-between game that was most impressive. Timid as a freshman in 2012-13, York looked confident, reacted well and scored with floaters and mid-range jumpers over defenders. He also knocked down 2-of-4 three-point attempts.
As a team, Arizona held Augustana to 30 percent shooting and hit 51 percent itself -- at one point before the starters left, UA's accuracy stood at 55 percent. The Wildcats hit 7-of-20 threes and after the bigs realized Augustana's undersized lineup was going to launch threes from the point guard to the center positions, the perimeter defense settled down.
The UA defense forced 12 steals and recorded eight blocks. The offense turned the ball over just five times. Consider last season, when five Mark Lyons out-of-rhythm jumpers were quite equal to turnovers themselves, and it was night and day.
Bigs get off to a slow start
Quibble about the rebounding totals that were even at 39 but to the Vikings' favor on the offensive boards, 15-5, Arizona dominated anyway.
The Wildcats were especially dinged on the defensive glass in the first half, giving up eight offensive boards as an undersized Augustana team led the rebounding total 20-18. Part of it was the Wildcats being outhustled, but it also didn't help that Augustana had a number of long rebounds go beyond the position of the UA bigs who were attempting to rebound while too deep in the paint. That, or the ball would barely slice the rim and land in an Augustana players' lap.
And if there's one thing that shouldn't be worried about regarding this version of the Wildcats, it's on the rebounding front.
Six-foot-9 forward Daniel Jansen scored seven early points in the first half against Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski by stretching Zeus out past the three-point stripe and making him pay for apprehensive defense on the perimeter. Freshman Aaron Gordon, who finished with seven points and five rebounds, also was slow to push through screens, and failed to close out on a couple of three-point shooters. That, like the rebounds, is something that can be fixed.
Experimenting with the lineup
Sean Miller's rotation is to-be-determined, but he did toy with some interesting lineups. Early in the second half, Miller ran out the expected starting lineup of McConnell, Johnson, Gordon, Ashley and Tarczewski but then substituted Tarczewski for Hollis-Jefferson -- the lineup was used little but was a nice small look with a lot of switches on screens.
Soon after, Miller ran with Ashley and Tarczewski along with a three guard lineup of McConnell, Johnson and Gabe York. They later went with a similar lineup with Mayes instead of York.