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3 things we learned in Arizona’s win over Long Beach State

The Wildcats have an effort problem and Coach Miller believes Rawle Alkins’ eventual return is part of the solution

NCAA Basketball: Long Beach State at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

After leaving the Bahamas without a win, the Arizona Wildcats returned to McKale Center with a 91-56 win over the Long Beach State 49ers Wednesday night.

The Wildcats move to 4-3 on the season. They will head on the road to Las Vegas to play the UNLV Rebels this Saturday before playing No. 9 Texas A&M in Phoenix next week.

But before we get to any of those games, here are three things we all learned from the ‘Cats first game back stateside:

The Wildcats don’t play with effort

Despite the convincing win, Coach Sean Miller was displeased with his team’s effort, especially on defense.

“We really struggle to play with great effort,” he said, “I don’t think that we’re going to be successful until that’s fixed.”

That’s because...

“The reality for us is we’re not that talented,” Miller said, “We have to play really, really hard.”

Miller liked the way senior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright played in the second half and believes PJC needs to set the tone with his effort.

“We’re a lifeless group a lot of times,” Miller said. “I thought Parker did a good job a couple times of injecting our team with life. A couple steals, played hard, got the ball out in transition and broke the game open. That’s what we expect from him.”

Offense returned to its efficient ways

Despite a few rough outings in Atlantis, Arizona’s offense returned to its efficient ways Wednesday. The Wildcats shot 60 percent from the field and 12-22 (55 percent) from 3-point range. Six Wildcats scored in double figures.

Junior guard Allonzo Trier was the leading scorer for the Wildcats, scoring 15 points on 6-7 shooting.

Freshman Brandon Randolph had 10 points in his first career start, but still struggled from the field, shooting 3-10.

Miller said most offenses smooth out as the season wears on, and so he isn’t worried nearly as much about it as, say, the team’s lack of effort.

“Our offense will be fine,” he said.

However, Miller said the team’s 10 second-half turnovers will end up being costly when the Wildcats face better competition because of their struggling defense.

“We don’t have room for error,” he said. “When you do that, you do it again on the road, you do it against a better team, they’re going to go on a big run, and that big run inevitably will do you in.”

Alkins is “part of the solution”

Sophomore Rawle Alkins is now in week nine of his recovery since having surgery on his foot. Alkins’ initial timetable for return was 8-12 weeks, and Miller is hopeful Alkins will return sometime very soon.

Since Arizona’s three-game losing streak in the Bahamas, people wondered what type of a difference maker Alkins will be, and Miller didn’t hold back his thoughts on that.

“He’s a really big part of our team, bigger than maybe any of us realized because there’s such a drop off emotionally, there’s such a drop off physically without him,” he said. “I think he’ll fill a gap that no matter what the coach says or does, we’re just going to be bigger, stronger, deeper and better because we have a player of his capability.”

When Miller talked about the Wildcats’ effort, he brought up Alkins’ name several times because he believes Alkins is “part of the solution.”

“It’s going to take him some time (to get back to speed),” Miller said, “but I am looking forward to adding him. When you’re able to sit a couple guys on the bench and not play them at all, that’s usually the medicine.”

Follow Rob Leano on Twitter @RobLeano1