Arizona’s season opener against an athletic Charleston Southern team was a bit shaky throughout the evening, but the Wildcats got the job done and pulled away with an 82-73 victory. It is apparent that though Arizona has a load of talent, size and depth, they will have a lot of work to do in learning how to use that size most effectively and–being a team composed of many new players–how to develop chemistry together.
Miller decided to start Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski, but these five were only starters by the definition of being on the court at tip-off, as nine players had the opportunity to play double digit minutes (out of players who got to play, Gabe York was the only player who had less than ten minutes on the floor). Miller tried numerous combinations, and it will be interesting to see which combination ends up working out the best. Due to his great performance, Freshmen Brandon Ashley (12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) received more playing time than starters Jerrett and Tarczewski. Due to his experience in a tight game, Kevin Parrom ended up getting more playing time than the two starting freshmen as well. Besides Lyons, Hill and Johnson, it is by no means rock solid who will get the remaining two starting spots in the long run, and based on tonight’s performance, Ashley is certainly knocking on the door.
Charleston Southern’s strategy was to shut down Arizona’s size by playing a tough zone defense to force Arizona to shoot from the outside and take low percentage shots–it worked. Amongst the two of them, big men Jerrett and Tarczewski could only muster seven points and seven rebounds. Meanwhile, Arizona attempted 32 three point shots, or over a third of Arizona’s entire shot selection. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Arizona’s highest scorers tonight (with the one exception of Ashley) were their shooters: Lyons (17), Hill (14) and Johnson (12).
This is obviously a problem Arizona will need to fix. The Wildcats pulled away with a victory tonight because they faced an inferior opponent with less depth, but the strategy of battling the zone with a multitude of outside shots will not work against better teams–The Wildcats are a good shooting team, but not a great one. Certainly, Miller cannot be happy with tonight’s shot selection considering Arizona’s size advantage this year.