With the Arizona Wildcats coming off their first loss of the season, it was imperative for them to get back to their winning ways, and they did just that. The Wildcats defeated the Boise State Broncos, 68-59, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Here were the main takeaways:
Ailing Anderson: Already without Kaleb Tarczewski, the injury bug bit again when Ryan Anderson sprained his ankle while contesting a shot. After hobbling off the court, Anderson would stretch out his ankle on the sideline and return to the game a few minutes later. It seemed an injury scare had been avoided, but then later in the game, he got his ankle twisted again after getting tangled up on the defensive end. He was on the floor screaming in pain, and I didn't think we'd see him back on the court, but there he came.
For Anderson, it was a great showing of toughness for him to not only stay in the game and play 27 minutes, but to score 11 points and grab seven rebounds on top of it. And luckily the team's next game isn't until next Saturday against Gonzaga, so Anderson and the rest of the team will have a whole week to get healthy. They really need it.
Weird Lineups: Due to injuries, we saw some crazy lineups by Sean Miller. He had Mark Tollefsen playing at center with four guards at one point, and he actually went to a complete five-guard lineup towards the end of the game. Hey, we even saw Justin Simon check in, too! He played just three minutes -- all of which were in the first half -- but it was still nice to see him get some time on the court. There was a brief Chance Comanche sighting as well.
Miller has mentioned that he's not quite sure which combinations do/don't work yet, and this was a game where it was clear that he is actively trying to figure it out. Of course, the injuries have also forced his hand.
Terrific Trier: Allonzo Trier struggled mightily in the team's first two games of the Wooden Legacy tournament, accumulating a total of just 10 points and six turnovers, but he bounced back in this game. He tied for a team-high 13 points and went 5-6 from the field and 3-4 from the free throw line. He did stop the ball at times, but when he's scoring as efficiently as he was, it's hard to be mad at that.
Balanced Offense: We're used to seeing Ryan Anderson or Gabe York lead the team in scoring, but in this game, it was Kadeem Allen and Trier, who both had 13 points. But as a whole, it was a team effort. The Wildcats had three other scorers in double figures -- Tollefsen, York, and Anderson -- and I think that will start to become a common theme for this team.
I was disappointed with Dusan Ristic's performance, though. He had a chance to make a major impact with the rest of the front court in shambles, but he didn't take advantage. His usual post game wasn't working -- he finished scoreless in nine minutes of play -- and was a non-factor in other areas of the game.
Improved Defense: Since the team was forced to use some odd lineup combinations, there were some defensive lapses and Boise State had ease getting into the paint at times, but Arizona's defense, for the most part, was solid. They held the Broncos to 40% shooting and 5-20 from behind the arc. The last time these teams met, the Wildcats had trouble slowing down Nick Duncan, the Broncos sharpshooting center, but the team held him to just 10 points.
Miller mentioned after the game that it was the team's best defensive game this season, and it's hard to disagree with that.
The win bumps the Wildcats to 6-1 on the season and they'll return to action next Saturday against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Spokane, Washington.