It was much of the same for Dylan Smith. He had a rough night offensively (1-5 FG), but stuffed the stat sheet in other ways, most notably by grabbing nine rebounds, three of the offensive variety. He also had two blocks.
Counting the two exhibitions, Smith is just 4 for 17 from the field this season and head coach Sean Miller said the redshirt junior has lost his confidence, yet he remains optimistic Smith will start hitting some shots.
“I go on what I see everyday and he’s a much better shooter than he’s shown,” Miller explained. “But I’ll tell you this about him, he rebounds the ball. And he gives his heart and soul on defense. He’s finding ways to help our team and I think he’ll settle in eventually here and take good shots, make the ones that he takes, and that will be a real shot in the arm. So far we’ve really played without him scoring and shooting. He doesn’t have to score 20, but he’s a much better shooter than he’s shown.”
Smith’s emergence as a rebounder has been interesting, considering he did not show a penchant for that last season, when he posted a minuscule 6.6 total rebounding percentage, never grabbing more than four in a game.
“I’m proud of him because in spite of (his shooting) not working out for him, he’s really found some other things that help our team,” Miller said.
And Arizona certainly needs help on the glass, after it allowed 16 rebounds to Houston Baptist.
“We got manhandled on the glass,” Miller said. “This year we have to rebound as a team. We don’t have that couple of bigs in there that are going to get those big rebounds for you. We need our guards to get in there. Our room for error when the other team misses, that’s a big difference. We have to block out and when guards don’t block out. Even our bigs, tonight we had opportunities and their big got it and put it back in, so that’s something we’ll take from this game and try to really work on an improve as we head into Sunday.”
Doutrive not dead
Devonaire Doutrive was the last scholarship player to enter Wednesday’s win, checking in with 7:23 left in regulation and the Wildcats up by 22.
The freshman wing finished with five points, making both shots he took, including a 3.
That came after Doutrive did not play at all in the exhibition against Chaminade. He was “disappointed” about that, per Miller, who added that Doutrive’s attitude has been “tremendous.”
“From the day he stepped foot on our campus in June, he’s done really everything we’ve asked of him,” Miller said of the former four-star recruit.
Miller said he only has a firm grasp on the first five or six spots in the rotation at this point, so it’s still possible Doutrive could have a more prominent role as the season progresses.
“Physically, he’s like a young colt,” Miller said of the 6-5, 175-pound freshman. “He’s so young, his body, how much he weighs, how strong he is, the best is yet to come for him. 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.”
Arizona players spoke for all of two minutes and 53 seconds after Wednesday’s and it consisted mostly of clichés, but here is how Brandon Randolph, who scored a career-high 25 points, explained his emergence as Arizona’s top bucket-getter.
“I mean, I’m just put into a different role and my teammates are just finding in spots where I can score and we all know each other’s games, so we work well with each other,” he said.
How has his game improved since last season?
“I was playing against (Allonzo Trier), Rawle (Alkins) and even Deandre (Ayton) in practice and even all the returners from last year, so they’re all great players and I got better, I got older,” Randolph said.
He said he those practices taught him that he needs to get stronger and take smarter shots.
“It just helps me get to the basket whenever I want and I can definitely tell the difference,” Randolph said of the weight he’s put on.
Randolph was 8 for 12 from the field and 7 for 8 from the free-throw line. Those eight free throw attempts matched the career-high he set last year against Texas A&M.
Including the two exhibitions, Randolph is averaging 21.7 PPG this season. Here is Miller’s explanation for Randolph’s early-season success:
“Brandon’s always been able to shoot the ball. I think he is learning the game and he is more of a complete player. He is still going to keep getting player because it’s the beginning of his sophomore year, but definitely right now he’s been a bright spot on our team.”
Brandon Randolph (25 points) and Alex Barcello (7 points) on Arizona’s win vs. Houston Baptist pic.twitter.com/yNoVjcbzGf— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) November 8, 2018
On a measure of productivity from 0-40, here are how the Wildcats stacked up using the Game Score stat, which takes into account every statistic and then weighs them and adds them together. (The full box score can be seen below.)
Brandon Randolph — 19.9
Chase Jeter — 11.9
Brandon Williams — 8.6
Justin Coleman — 5.9
Alex Barcello — 5.4
Devonaire Doutrive — 5.1
Emmanuel Akot — 4.7
Ryan Luther — 3.9
Dylan Smith — 3.2
Jake DesJardins — 3.2
Here’s a random stat: The pace of Wednesday’s game was rated as a 74 by KenPom, meaning it would have been the fourth-most uptempo game Arizona played in last season.
Here’s a random tidbit: Alex Barcello said he does play point guard in practice, even though he has exclusively played off the ball this season. Brandon Williams and Justin Coleman had their minutes carefully staggered Wednesday, so that one of them was always on the court. (Well, except for garbage time.)