The Arizona Wildcats believed they had a solid bench after it fared well in the first three games of the season, but the unit quickly was exposed against stiffer competition in Hawaii.
Arizona’s bench was outscored 41-19 when it went 1-2 in the Maui Invitational, with only one player — Ira Lee — scoring more than four points in any of the three games. He scored seven in the loss to Gonzaga.
Meanwhile, Dylan Smith went 0 for 8 in Maui, Emmanuel Akot went 1 for 8, and Alex Barcello was held scoreless.
The lack of production is a glaring problem considering Arizona’s starting lineup is not as potent as usual. Ryan Luther, for instance, went scoreless in two of the three games in Maui, accentuating how top-heavy Arizona’s roster is.
That left Justin Coleman, Brandon Randolph, Brandon Williams and Chase Jeter as the only reliable contributors and, aside from Coleman, they all had their hiccups in the tournament as well, leaving the Wildcats vulnerable to some stagnant stretches of offense.
“We need to get a couple players who aren’t starting the game, our bench in particular to play, help us contribute,” Sean Miller said after the bench was outscored 33-4 against Auburn. “I think in all three nights if you add up the minutes they played and the production, that’s something that I hope can grow as the year goes on.”
A possible solution? Turning freshman Devonaire Doutrive loose. The former four-star recruit has displayed flashes of brilliance this season, albeit in an extremely small sample size.
Doutrive, who played one minute in Maui, has scored nine points in 22 minutes this year on 4-of-5 shooting, to go along with three rebounds and an assist.
Miller compared the athletic wing to a “young colt” earlier in the season.
“He’s so young, his body, how much he weighs, how strong he is, the best is yet to come for him,” the UA coach said on Nov. 7. “You can almost see that. What we’re trying to do right now is get him better on defense and really try to get him to think about what role he can have. It’s too early to say this player is going to play or another guy’s not. He’s one of those guys we’re closely watching and I can certainly see him cracking the rotation and helping us because he can do a lot of different things.”
Two weeks later, it seems the time to get Doutrive into the rotation is now. Given how the rest of the bench is performing, there isn’t much to lose, but there is a whole lot to gain.
“We haven’t tried Devonaire Doutrive, who I would say is our ninth or tenth guy and I think it’s up to us to get him in the game now, give him a try,” Miller said. “And sometimes a young guy like that will come in with confidence and maybe bolster what we have.”