clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

3 up, 3 down from Arizona’s wins over South Dakota State and Long Beach State

NCAA Basketball: Long Beach State at Arizona Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 14 Arizona Wildcats improved to 6-0 on the 2019-2020 season last week when they picked up two more wins at home, the first a narrow 71-64 victory against South Dakota State Thursday night and the second a 104-67 blowout over Long Beach State on Sunday.

Despite the two dubs though, it wasn’t an all perfect week for Sean Miller’s squad.

On Friday, it was announced that sophomore guard Devonaire Doutrive was kicked off the team for a second violation of team rules, while Miller was left fuming after the South Dakota State game, citing poor shot selection and the Wildcats’ lack of urgency to get freshman forward Zeke Nnaji the ball in the first half.

Our full recaps of the two games can be found here and here, and here is a deeper analysis of the good and the bad from the Wildcats’ up and down week.

3 up

Zeke Nnaji

Nnaji has been unreal to start the season and it’s only right that the up section starts with him.

Through Arizona’s first six games, the 6-11 freshman from Minnesota is leading the NCAA Division I in field goal percentage, having posted a ridiculous 80.7% (46-57) from the field so far.

He averaged 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the two games last week and Miller was genuinely upset when he felt his team didn’t get him the ball enough in the first half against South Dakota State.

It’s understandable as to why Miller felt that way. Nnaji has been one of the nation’s best players, let alone the Cats’.

It’s telling that in what was Nnaji’s “worst” game to this point (4-5 from the field, 12 points and 6 rebounds against the Jackrabbits) the Wildcats had by far their smallest margin of victory this season — just seven points.

Put that game aside and Zeke is averaging 21 PPG and Arizona’s average margin of victory is 35.


Many of Arizona’s best moments last week came when they pushed the ball and were running in the open court.

Combined, Arizona outscored their two opponents 61-15 in fast break points.

That’s a huge, plus difference for the Wildcats, who have usually been more of a half court team under Miller, and fans will want that running and gunning to continue as the season goes on.

Guard Play

Nico Mannion has been very good so far this season, averaging 14.8 points and 5 assists on 52% shooting from the field, 48% from three and 80% from the free throw line.

That included a breakout performance Sunday when Mannion put up 22 points, 8 assists and just 1 turnover.

“I really believe, just watching Nico, he’s slowly and steadily settling in and learning how to be a college player,” Miller said. “Sometimes you forget it’s still November, still very early in our team’s development, especially with the younger guys, and he was really outstanding tonight. Maybe the best game he’s played thus far for us.”

But it hasn’t just been Mannion who has been balling in the Wildcats’ backcourt.

Arizona’s other guards have been playing pretty good too.

Jemarl Baker Jr. (11 points) and Max Hazzard (14 points) both had solid games against the Beach, and each of them will be expected to take on a larger roll with Doutrive now out of the picture.

Baker is leading the nation in assist to turnover ratio (11:1) and is shooting over 50% from three, while Hazzard has shown the ability to put points on the board off the bench too.

Here’s to hoping both veteran guards continue to get buckets going forward.

3 down

Good bye Devonaire

This was an obvious choice for the down section.

Before finally being dismissed from the team, Devonaire Doutrive had the definition of the an up and down Arizona career, and it’s actually sad that we’ll now never get to see him try to fulfill his full potential.

Doutrive had been averaging 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in three games since coming back from suspension, and Miller had even referred to him as a potential starter just a couple weeks back.

Now he’s gone.

Life really does come at you quick.


Turnovers were probably the biggest reason why Arizona only held a five point half time lead against Long Beach State on Sunday (the Cats committed eight TOs in the first half against the Beach) and were trailing at halftime against the Jackrabbits on Thursday.

The 15 giveaways the UA averaged last week is simply too high a number and against better competition the Wildcats won’t be able to afford to give the ball away so many times and still win.

Miller will be hoping that his team can take care of the ball much better going forward.

Shot Selection

This was something that Miller harped on during his rant on Thursday night.

The head coach just couldn’t seem to understand why his team was taking “bad, quick shots” as he put it and were refusing to get Nnaji the ball against South Dakota State.

Arizona seemed to correct the problem on Sunday against Long Beach, and Miller commended his team for doing so, saying that they even looked they were trying to over correct this early on Sunday:

“I also think that’s why we had a couple head scratching moments in the first half. I felt like we were tight. They wanted to do the things that we talked about. Maybe a couple guys were forcing the ball inside, maybe not playing with as much confidence. And like I mentioned, after the last game, if we have an early opportunity, we want to take it. We just want to make sure that it’s a good early opportunity. We don’t want to just all of a sudden forget what makes us a good team, who has the hot hand, just in an attempt to shoot quick.”

The young Wildcats will need to continue to make an effort to take good shots this weekend at the Wooden Classic and beyond.