The Arizona Wildcats improved to 4-0 in Pac-12 play on Saturday after easing past the California Golden Bears by a score of 87-65.
Our recap highlighting Chase Jeter’s career night can be found here, and here are some more postgame notes.
Coleman’s shoulder seems to be OK
I was skeptical that Justin Coleman would play Saturday after he aggravated his left shoulder in the final minute against Stanford on Wednesday. But not only did he suit up, he had one of his best outings in an Arizona uniform, posting 13 points and five assists on seven shots.
To ease any concerns about his shoulder, Coleman played 32 minutes and scooped in a nifty left-handed layup, hardly looking limited out there.
It was only Coleman’s second time scoring in double figures since the Maui Invitational.
“Justin Coleman was terrific the whole game, but especially in the second half,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “He had a couple of turnovers late, but he really set the tone for six, eight, 10 minutes of the second half after halftime where he took the game into his hands, played on both ends, got his teammate shots, got himself shots and that’s what you look for from a senior point guard.”
As for Coleman’s injury, Miller reiterated that Coleman did not dislocate his shoulder a second time, even though he appeared to be in serious pain after taking a hard fall against the Cardinal.
“It’s just when you get hit in that area, because he did dislocate it a week and a half ago, he’s sore,” Miller said. “But he’s a tough kid.”
Arizona’s shooting is improving
3-point shooting has been one of Arizona’s biggest weaknesses this season, but the tide might be turning.
The Wildcats shot 15 for 31 from 3 in the Bay Area and are shooting 40 percent from distance since conference play started.
Brandon Williams has experienced the biggest turnaround, going 5 for 7 from 3 in the last three games. Over that span, the freshman is averaging 13 points per game on 65 percent shooting, a huge improvement from his season averages.
“He’s really finding a rhythm scoring,” Miller said. “Left hand, right hand, he’s more comfortable further away from the basket than maybe he would have been in the beginning of our season, which makes sense because he doesn’t have a ton of game experience. And as he keeps playing games and practicing and learning, you can see his improvement almost right in front of you.”
Too many turnovers
What Williams did not do so well against Cal is take care of the basketball, committing five turnovers.
As a team Arizona committed 12 turnovers against Cal including eight in the first half, which Miller said was just too many. He also wasn’t too pleased with the 24 turnovers the Wildcats committed on the road trip as a whole.
“Man, I’d love that number to be 20 or 18 because when we get shots at the basket and really take care of the ball, that’s when this year’s team is at our very best,” he said. “I mean, no coach wants his team to turn it over, but I think those possessions are even more important for us because we’re not a great rebounding team. So we’re trying to get as many shots of the basket as we can get.”
Ira Lee is slowly but surely becoming the energy player Arizona thought he would be.
Lee posted another solid outing Saturday, with four points, seven rebounds and five blocks in 15 minutes. The sophomore punctuated his performance with a thunderous slam over a 7-foot-3 Golden Bear:
We're happy to bring to you the @iramandoesit slam from @APlayersProgram's 87-65 win over Cal.— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) January 13, 2019
From every angle.
You're welcome. pic.twitter.com/kxWBqCmPuy
Now it gets real
There is something to be said for winning the games you are supposed to win — look at ASU, which has lost to Utah and Stanford — but the Wildcats have had a soft schedule to kick off Pac-12 play, dimming the 4-0 start just a bit. Only one of Arizona’s first four conference opponents are inside KenPom’s Top 100.
But things are about to get real now. Arizona’s next six opponents are all inside KenPom’s Top 100, including fellow unbeatens UCLA, Washington and Oregon State.
KenPom projects Arizona will go 4-2 in those six games, falling to UCLA and ASU on the road. If that is the case, the Wildcats would surface with a 8-2 record through 10 conference games.
In the end, KenPom projects they will win the Pac-12 with a 13-5 record, sharing the title with the Huskies.