It was great to be back in the McKale Center as the Arizona Wildcats defeated the Pacific Tigers and extended their home winning streak to 39.
Here's three things we learned about Arizona in their opener:
1. The Defense is still there:
It may have been against Pacific, but the Wildcats still kept their bread and butter intact, which is lockdown defense and denying the opponent easy looks. Despite losing their two best defenders from last year in T.J. McConnell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the Wildcats still held Pacific to 36% shooting from the field and never let them get into a rhythm. T.J. Wallace was the leading scorer for Pacific with 19 points, but he shot a pedestrian 7-18 from the field along with three turnovers to only two assists. Ray Bowles was the only other Pacific player to reach double-figures, and Sean Miller proved that regardless of personnel, his teams will get after it on the defensive end and make scoring a living hell for the opposition.
2. The starting backcourt was impressive:
In his first real game for Arizona, Kadeem Allen had an all-around fantastic game and played like a savvy veteran. He had 13 points on four of five shooting and five assists to only one turnover, and was under control the entire match. When he was not driving to the basket at will, he was playing extremely well on the defensive end, grabbing rebounds, or setting up Gabe York, Ryan Anderson, and others for baskets.
Gabe York also had 13 points in 24 minutes on Friday, and is doing his best to keep his starting spot for good this season. He also shot two for five from three and added two assists and played with tremendous confidence throughout the game. This season, Gabe is trying show that he is more than just a spot-up shooter, and with performances like that, I am excited to see how his senior year plays out.
3. The Freshmen played like......freshmen:
After being spoiled with great freshmen play the past two years, with Stanley Johnson and Aaron Gordon each receiving Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, it was weird to see the newcomers come in and not play like veterans. Allonzo Trier, the most-heralded of the bunch, shot a ghastly 1-10 from the field and seemed to be pressing at times in his first game. Justin Simon and Chance Comanche were each held scoreless, but they were not expected to contribute this early into their freshmen careers. While all three could have played better in their first game, the solid outings from Ryan Anderson, Gabe York, and Kadeem Allen meant that they did not have to do too much and that is ok. I am still giving them the benefit of the doubt as Arizona does not NEED big contributions from them at the moment.