At the midpoint of the Arizona Wildcats' season, coach Sean Miller may have firmly settled on his playing rotation.
By the time UA lost Thursday at Oregon, Miller had narrowed his rotation to just eight players - with heavy duty assigned to Solomon Hill (37 minutes), Mark Lyons (37) and Nick Johnson (35).
A day later, Miller said heavy minutes for some players may have been affecting UA's defense, so he softened assignments up slightly on Saturday at Oregon State to include reserve Angelo Chol - and the Wildcats won their first game in Gill Coliseum under Miller.
Miller used Chol - now the ninth player in the rotation - for four minutes after he did not play the big man at Oregon. Both Hill and Johnson played 35 minutes, while Mark Lyons put in 33, but nobody else played more than 22.
"We played everybody and it was good for us to do that," Miller said.
In Pac-12 games so far, Lyons, Hill and Johnson are all averaging in the 34-35 minute range and Kevin Parrom is at 26, while freshmen big men Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley are all around the 20-minute mark.
The main differences so far since UA started Pac-12 play is that the top three players are all playing about five minutes more, while backup point guard Jordin Mayes has lost 2.5 average minutes and Chol had all but dropped from the rotation until playing two minutes in each half at OSU.
"I kind of pulled back (on Chol) and I'd like to get him to where he was," Miller said before the OSU game. "He's a great example of a guy who's going to come in the game and play very hard. While he's in, another player is out and it kind of keeps us going. Over the long haul that's what's most important for us."
Wildcats drop to No. 7
Arizona's loss to Oregon cost the Wildcats three spots in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, where they were placed at No. 7 on Monday.
The Ducks' win helped Oregon (15-2) move into the poll at No. 21, their first Top 25 appearance since December 2007, while UCLA (14-3) also jumped in at No. 24.
Louisville took the top spot in the poll, followed by Indiana, Duke, Kansas and Michigan. Syracuse was sixth, followed by UA, Gonzaga, Minnesota and Florida.
Arizona was also ranked No. 7 in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 coaches poll, falling from No. 3 last week.
Praise for Hill
The five three-pointers forward Solomon Hill made on Saturday at OSU were not only a career high, but they were also one more than he made his entire freshman season in 2009-10.
Once again, Miller said Hill's shooting improvement was another result of the hard work he's put in over his three-years plus UA career.
"He's put himself in a position where I believe he is one of the best players at his position in the country," Miller said. "He does everything for our team. … I'm proud of him. He represents a lot of the qualities we have as a team."
Miller received a wish of sorts Monday when Washington's C.J. Wilcox was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after leading the Huskies to a sweep of California and Stanford.
Arizona has not had a player win the weekly award yet this season despite its 14-0 start, and Miller had asked a Pac-12 official during last week's conference teleconference call why that was the case.
Having consistently preached that team success leads to individual awards, Miller also requested that the Pac-12 not give the weekly honor to a Wildcat if UA started losing.
"That would ruin our credibility," Miller said.
Wilcox averaged 23.5 points and 8.5 rebounds over the Huskies' Bay area weekend. UA had nominated Lyons, who averaged 18.5 points and 4.5 rebounds over the Oregon and OSU games.
Minutes per game distribution
nonconf. conf. crunch*
Mark Lyons, G 27.3 34.8 32.4
Solomon Hill, F 30.3 35.2 35.0
Nick Johnson, G 29.3 34.2 33.6
Kevin Parrom, G-F 21.5 26.5 26.0
Brandon Ashley, F 22.5 19.3 20.2
Kaleb Tarczewski, C 21.7 22.8 21.4
Grant Jerrett, F 17.3 20.0 18.6
Jordin Mayes, G 13.8 11.3 10.0
Angelo Chol, F 9.6 2.3** 2.8**
*Games decided by three points or less, and UA's Jan. 3 overtime win against Colorado (from which only playing time over the first 40 minutes was included)
**Includes zero minutes for the Oregon game, when Chol did not play
• What: No. 7 Arizona at Arizona St.
• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
• TV: FSAZ
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM