It's premature to call Brandon Ashley the second-coming of Derrick Williams, but the parallels already read like a book.
Neither started their first game as a college freshman, yet Sean Miller saw flashes of efficiency and consistency in both. Both players quickly earned the starting job. Then, their third game was the coming-out party.
In 2009, Williams scored 25 points and set a school record for free throws attempted in his third game as a college hoopster. And on Monday night in McKale Center, Ashley made his first start and led the Arizona Wildcats to a 94-72 victory against the Long Beach State 49ers.
Ashley scored 20 points, sent back two blocks and grabbed 10 rebounds, hitting all six of his shots and going 8-of-9 from the foul line. The Wildcats (3-0) used a similar formula as they did against UTEP, outrebounding the 49ers by 17.
Solomon Hill added a quiet 15 points -- 11 of which came on 11 foul shots -- six rebounds and four assists.
The Wildcats held LBSU to 43 percent shooting from the floor and especially quieted starting point guard Mike Caffey, who was scoreless until five minutes remained. Caffey finished with three points and seven assists for head coach Dan Monson's team, while scoring wing James Ennis scored 17 despite being benched to start the game because of disciplinary reasons.
Kevin Parrom added 15 points, all on three-point makes, and Nick Johnson scored 12 points, dished out five assists and had three steals.
Arizona shot 54 percent from the floor, hit 9-of-19 from three-point land and got to the free throw stripe 35 times.
And while Ashley was the story of the night, fellow big men Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett did their usual work. Tarczewski had seven points, five boards and led the team with four blocks while Jerrett struggled to get in a flow. He still had five points and four rebounds.
Also struggling in a nitpicky sort of way was point guard Mark Lyons, who had four turnovers while forcing the issue early on. He had four points, four rebounds and three assists.
Some of those turnovers came against a zone defense that LBSU employed in the first half. But unlike Charleston Southern's zone, the Wildcats drained painful three-pointers and ran a lob play to Ashley behind the defense out of a timeout to quickly make Monson reconsider his tactic.
Arizona went ahead 39-17 six minutes before halftime, but LBSU went on a 10-0 run in response. The short bench for Monson wouldn't be able to keep pace with Miller's Wildcats. Arizona led 50-37 at halftime, and leading 59-46 after the first media timeout of the second half, the Wildcats put their foot down on the 49ers, who in the past two games had also allowed second-half runs to their opponents.
The lead ballooned to 80-50 by the time seven minutes remained in the game.
Overall, Miller might not have much to complain about.
Ashley's final rebound ended up with him on the floor and then a brief scuffle ensued between he and Ennis. Ashley was pulled away -- ironically -- by Mark Lyons and was then benched by Miller for the remainder of the night as Johnson and Book Richardson cooled off Ashley on the pine.
LBSU's 43.8 percent three-point shooting could be another issue of concern.
Other than that, there's not much to dislike for Arizona fans.
So far in the young season, everything is going as expected. The development of the big men is happening, step-by-step, and with steps forward sometimes followed by a few steps back. Nothing surprising, and nothing to be greatly concerned about.
After being the odd man out between the three freshmen big men, how big of a step forward Ashley took on Monday will be the next topic of inquiry looking ahead.