The Arizona Wildcats put together a much more complete performance on Sunday afternoon than it did in its opener a few days earlier, beating Cal Poly 82-61 to improve to 2-0.
The Mustangs may not have been much better than first opponent Houston Baptist, whom the Wildcats beat 90-60 on Wednesday, but Arizona no doubt performed at a higher overall level in its second outing of the season.
Arizona shot 45.7 percent in each half, with four guys in double figures, won the rebounding battle 43-33 and turned the ball over just seven times. To put that last number in perspective, the Wildcats had 11 turnovers in the first half against Houston Baptist.
Here’s what we learned from the Wildcats’ latest triumph:
The transfers will have a lot to say about the season’s path
Arizona coach Sean Miller has routinely put together top-tier recruiting classes in his time in the desert, this last one notwithstanding—though the way it came together, at the last minute, was darn impressive. The class in the works for 2019 is again looking stellar.
But it’s pretty evident that this current team is going to live and die with the efforts of the four guys who started their careers at different Division I colleges.
Transfers Ryan Luther, Chase Jeter, Dylan Smith and Justin Coleman combined for 48 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and five steals. Luther led all Wildcats with 17, three shy of his career high, while Jeter had a career-best 16 on 6-of-10 shooting and Smith’s 14—aided by four three-pointers—was two off his best with Arizona.
The impacts of these guys shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, as Miller has made the most of transfers at Arizona. Ryan Anderson averaged a double-double as a graduate transfer in 2015-16, TJ McConnell’s play was integral to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in 2013 and 2014 and Mark Lyons led the Wildcats in scoring in 2011-12.
Brandon Williams’ shot may be off, but the rest of his game isn’t
Some impressive scoring numbers in the Red-Blue scrimmage and Arizona’s two exhibition games had Williams looking like a good candidate to be the third freshman in as many seasons to average 15 points per game.
Through two regular-season games he’s averaging 11.0, scoring nine against Cal Poly after getting 13 in his collegiate debut. But that’s come on a combined 6-of-20 shooting, Williams making only 2 of 9 three-point attempts.
Yet scoring doesn’t appear to be the only way Williams will make his mark. On Sunday he had a team-high eight assists, playing the point quite a bit with Coleman picking up two early fouls, and in two games he’s dished out 13 dimes.
Even more important: Williams had zero turnovers in 31 minutes. He didn’t have any in 29 minutes on Wednesday.
Ira Lee’s role may be as the enforcer
Lee sat out the opener while serving a one-game suspension, his punishment for being cited for super extreme DUI during the summer. He was one of the first off the bench for Arizona on Sunday, and in the first 85 seconds he was on the court he grabbed two of his team-best rebounds.
It wasn’t until there was 6:12 left in the first half that Lee got his first personal foul. It wouldn’t be his last.
Lee fouled out in only 13 minutes of action, finishing with six points on 3-of-6 shooting. When he was out there, the sophomore forward was active.