Ben Braun must hate Arizona. The Cats owned him in Berkeley and he moves to Houston and we darken his doorstep again. In his defense, he's new there and it looks like he has a couple of pieces of a decent club but they are a bad matchup against Arizona. Wednesday night was no different as the Cats showed up intense and ready to tango and they tap danced their way through the night to a convincing victory. The Kansas game behind them, there was no hangover evident in the demeanor of the team and our Cats employed their style of outworking the other team and relentless effort to put this one away early.
This isn't to say that there aren't a few notes of concern. Most opponents understand that this team goes through Derrick Williams and as his game matures and grows, so must his understanding of what opposing teams are going to do to get him out of the game. Namely, expect opponents to work towards drawing him out as a defender and making him commit fouls. The Cats have to understand this and be ready to help out. We've already seen Coach Miller try and use inventive ways to hide Derrick by moving him to the four or juggling the lineup to try and move Williams around to keep him from being exposed on defense. The key is to keep him in the game and keep him fresh. I don't mean to imply that Williams isn't a quality defender, but lets face it, based on the capriciousness of officiating at this level, its incredibly easy to pick up a couple of cheap fouls just by being in the neighborhood, or sometimes "being in the wrong place at the wrong time" kind of fouls. How Miller manages Williams foul situation throughout the year will have a tremendous impact on how well this team performs.
Another note of concern is the inconsistent point guard play. It's not so much the turnovers that the team is committing (based on observance alone, those appear to be lessened somewhat) but perhaps a matter of what kinds of turnovers are being committed. In their relentless quest for reaching the rim, there are many times where our Cats are over penetrating and getting themselves caught in the no-mans-land of the lane and either blowing through for a charging foul or getting their pockets picked because they've drawn themselves into a triple team. We have to remember that this is the first year for Jones at the position with the main responsibility of running the team. Jordin Mayes is new and raw but shows potential, whereas Kyle Fogg handles the position as needed without many mistakes but little flash. If any of these players develop the capacity to pull up for an intermediate jump shot, it would be welcomed if for no other reason to add a sense of doubt as to the intent of the dribble penetration.
Overall, the team minutes and scoring is well distributed amongst the team and Arizona is showing the ability to steadily dispatch opponents that are not on an equal footing with them. The next step is to show how well they can elevate their game when facing an opponent that is just as well coached and as athletic as themselves. Time will tell on just how many teams within the Pac 10 roster meet that criteria. This team is still growing into itself and as their confidence grows so will the expectations.
Double digit scorers were Horne, Williams, Jones and Mayes, with Derrick breaking double figures on the boards as well. Arizona held another opponent under 40% from the field for the game. The bench kicked in a modest 28 points and has shown consistent effort when given the opportunity to perform. Arizona plays deep and plays hard, just what you might expect from a team assembled by Miller and that strategy may well be critical if any injuries occur during the long conference grind. That Cats have improved to 6-1 and draw a disappointing Oklahoma squad at home on Sunday Dec. 5.