The Arizona Wildcats go as the Brandons go.
Brandon Williams scored 23 points and Brandon Randolph chipped in with 19, leading Arizona past a pesky Chaminade team, 75-64, in its second and final exhibition.
Williams tallied 14 points in the first half and Randolph posted 15 in the second half, each carrying the offense for stretches at a time. They finished a combined 15 for 28 from the field, buoying a Wildcats team that pulled away late.
“They made big plays when it counted,” Coach Sean Miller said.
Arizona, which shot 45 percent and got outrebounded 36-35, trailed by eight with 16 minutes left before using a 10-0 run to retake the lead.
Chaminade continued to hang around, before Randolph scored 12 points in a four-minute stretch to put Arizona up 10 with 3:55 left, icing the game with a 3.
“They only lost by (five) to San Diego State and San Diego State is a really good team as well, so we knew we had to come out hard and compete,” Williams said.
Randolph was 4 for 5 from 3 after going 5 for 5 against Western New Mexico. Williams was 4 for 8, making the first four he took.
That duo led Arizona in scoring in its first exhibition, too, a trend that should carry over to the regular season.
“They took good 3s, both guys we really believe in as shooters,” Miller said. “Both are very talented and now it’s up to us to continue to develop them and build around them.”
Arizona was 11 for 25 from 3 as a team, another solid shooting night, even though the offense was disjointed at times and noticeably devoid of players who could create their own shots.
“It takes some time to get everybody on the same page, but that’s what tonight’s game helps with, because we were pushed, we had to try a number of things and the shots that are players were taking were under pressure,” Miller said.
“If you miss them, we might lose. So it’s one thing to make a lot of shots when you’re up 20 points. But in a game like that tonight, I think it’s more representative of what’s to come. But we have a lot of different players in new roles and it’s going to take time.”
The Wildcats used the same starting lineup as the first exhibition and got off to a slow start. Chaminade was hot from the perimeter and grabbed a 13-6 lead thanks to a trio of 3s.
That’s when Williams caught fire, leading the Wildcats on a 13-0 run, though Arizona only led 31-29 at the half. It then missed four its first five shots after halftime and turned the ball over three times, allowing Chaminade to roar to a 40-32 lead.
The Silverswords shot 45 percent, including 50 percent in the second half. Miller said Arizona is still learning how to play 40 minutes of stingy defense, not uncommon in November.
“We had some great moments both halves when we played both ends, but when our effort or the details drop, our room for error lessens and you feel that,” he said.
Justin Coleman had 14 points, scoring 10 in the second half, aiding Williams and Randolph in the comeback effort. The grad transfer also had three assists, though Miller thought he should have had more.
“I thought a number of times he had a great pass and created an opportunity, but it didn’t go in,” he said. “Justin is very clever in getting his teammates shots and I think if you look closely at Brandon Williams and Brandon Randolph a lot of their uncontested open 3s came off penetration or a great pass from Justin, and he’ll be able to do that throughout the year.”
Chase Jeter returned from injury but battled foul trouble, only playing 17 minutes off the bench. The Duke transfer grabbed six rebounds but turned the ball over three times and missed three free throws, finishing with just one point.
Jeter, who the Wildcats are counting on to be a paint presence, has missed “quite a bit of practice” the last couple weeks, so Miller said it would be unfair to judge him on his debut, good or bad.
“He had some good moments, but tonight was just more about letting him play and getting him out there for the first time in a long time,” he said.
Ryan Luther, who had seven points and four rebounds, also dealt with foul trouble early in the second half, so Arizona played small as it cut into Chaminade’s second-half lead.
Alex Barcello scored five points during UA’s 10-0 run, including a 3. Devonaire Doutrive did not play so it seems Barcello has him beat for the ninth spot in the rotation, though that is subject to change when Arizona opens the regular season Wednesday against Houston Baptist.
So are a lot of other things.
“I’ll be more patient with this team,” Miller said, fully aware that expectations are lower this year.
“Whether we won or lost tonight, our record remains 0-0. It’s part of the path we have to be the most ready we can for this coming week. Everything before that is to allow us to learn, grow, improve, and identify a few areas that we need to quickly improve and tonight’s game had a little bit of everything when it comes to getting us ready.”