UA's Nick Johnson finishes a fast-break dunk over ASU's Carrick Felix - off a steal from Solomon Hill - to give the Cats a 44-28 lead early in the second half. "That's the Nick that's played with us the entire season," says coach Sean Miller, who liked Johnson's defense, too.


CLEMSON, S.C. - Florida is coming to McKale Center for a Top 10 showdown Saturday night, and Sean Miller is already holding the door open.

"We'll be ready," the Arizona Wildcats coach said.

It's all in the perspective. Eighth-ranked Arizona showed significant vulnerability for the first time this season in wins over Southern Miss and Clemson last week, problems that could cost UA against the sixth-ranked Gators on Saturday at McKale, but the Wildcats have also now shown the ability to deal with them under pressure.

In the two games last week, the Wildcats shot poorly at times. Didn't get much out of their freshmen post players at others. Turned the ball over too much.

Even their older guys had some issues: Mark Lyons went 0 for 7 against Southern Miss, and Solomon Hill was a combined 5 for 23 from the field with nine turnovers in the two games.

But the Wildcats won anyway. And, Miller hopes, they grew from the experience, just in time to face the Gators.

Here are three ways the Wildcats progressed last week:

• The young post players faced two difficult defenses they hadn't seen before.

"One of the things that happened to us against Southern Miss was it was the first time they played against a frenetic zone and you could really see it," Miller said. Additionally, the Clemson game "was the first time they played against what I would consider a high-major, physical frontline on the road."

Freshmen big men Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley took only four combined field goals against Southern Miss. In UA's 66-54 win at Clemson on Saturday, Tarczewski was 3 for 7 while Jerrett was 1 for 6.

"Some shots that they normally get off easily didn't happen (against Clemson), but that's why you come and play games like this," Miller said. "They now know and they'll be better the next time it comes.

"I think that's the good news for Arizona, that we're far from a finished product. We have a lot of young players who will continue to develop as our season moves forward."

• Their point guard adjusted. The issue for Lyons, of course, is not about experience - the transfer from Xavier has already played 105 college games and has scored 1,288 points so far.

For him, it's been about dealing with a new system, new players … and a new fishbowl - the one in which there's been a spirited debate about his negative assist-turnover ratio so far this season.

After putting up four turnovers and no assists on Dec. 1 at Texas Tech, Lyons went 0 for 7 from the field against Southern Miss - and then rebounded with 20 points, four assists and only one turnover at Clemson.

"He didn't all of a sudden figure it out between last week and this week," Miller said. "It's just he's a little more like our freshmen in that the more he practices and the more he plays, the more he'll settle in and get better at some things I know he can do.

"He has a huge heart and I would rather have a guard and a player on our team with that type of confidence and heart … one of the things he's really good at when the going gets tough is he rises up."

Guard Nick Johnson said it was great to see his backcourt mate play well.

"The last two games (before Clemson) he was kind of struggling a little, but his confidence never wavers," Johnson said. "That's the great thing about him."

• Hill never stopped. The senior forward had five turnovers and struggled with his shooting against Clemson's physical defense, making just 2 of 16 field goals on Saturday.

But he also filled just about every other column in the box score. Hill had 10 rebounds, two blocks, two steals and three assists while hitting 3 of 4 free throws he took.

He spent plenty of energy, too. Hill played 35 minutes to average 36 for the week.

"Solo played a good game" against Clemson, Johnson said. "He didn't make shots he usually makes, but he was defending, passing and making everybody better. That's what our team does."

On StarNet: See more photos from UA's win at Clemson at

Up next

• Who: No. 6 Florida (7-0) at No. 8 Arizona (7-0)

• When: 8 p.m. Saturday


• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)