More than half of the field goals Arizona threw up today against Charleston Southern were three-pointers, and the Wildcats hit them at only a 34.4 percent rate. And UA’s three freshmen big men combined for just 19 points.
But Sean Miller said the Wildcats were efficient and he can quantify that. The Wildcats scored roughly 1.22 points for every possession on Sunday in part because they had only eight turnovers.
Dishing for 25 assists also made Miller feel better.
“It was so much about defense and we struggled against their offense,” Miller said. “The positive is when you have 25 assists and eight turnovers. There won’t be many games that you see in college basketball when that’s the case. From an offense perspective against the zone it was tricky for a lot of young frontcourt players but we did a pretty good job.”
Of the 32 three pointers attempted, Miller said:
“Maybe we took what the defense gave us,” he said. “I don’t know. I’d have to watch the film. We had a few ill-advised shots. Usually you have more ill-advised shots in November than you do at any other time. But I think if you do the numbers, because we had eight turnovers and 11 threes, our offensive efficiency was pretty good.”
Mark Lyons hit just 2 of 8 three pointers, missing both he tried in the first half, but said his teammates “picked me up” and told him to keep going.
Kevin Parrom was 1 for 4 from three point range, though his one make did the Bucs in with two minutes left, and Nick Johnson was 1 for 5 from long range.
CSU was in “kind of like a matchup zone where they were guarding everyone individually,” Lyons said. “At the same time we couldn’t get the ball to the post so we took a lot of threes. We’ve got a lot of great shooters who can take the shots; we just gotta make them instead of missing them.”
Defense was where Miller was the most upset, after having seen his team struggle to deal with Charleston Southern’s spacing and shooting. Eventually, the Wildcats went with a smaller, more mobile lineup featuring Brandon Ashley at center and Solomon Hill at power forward.
“Just watching our young guys move on defense, being able to deal with a lot of the complexity when you have two big guys rotating. … “ Miller said. “Two or three times we were supposed to switch ball screen and we didn’t.”
FWIW, having Hill at power forward meant the possibility of having him play small forward all season lasted less than one game…
But there’s no doubt Miller will take advantage of Hill’s versatility where needed in the future, too.
“Solomon has been preparing to play the four in what you’d call special situations,” Miller said. “That would be more late game or in the game but we did it more throughout the game tonight and that’s the value of having someone like Solomon, who can do so many things to help your team win.”
Not only did Miller go with a smaller lineup but he also had seniors Lyons, Hill and Kevin Parrom in near the end, saying his veterans were more ready to help in the first game of the season.
“Obviously, in a tough situation down the stretch we want our leaders on the floor, and people who have been productive the whole game,” Lyons said. “Coach made the right adjustments to put us all on the floor at the same time.”
Brandon Ashley came off the bench again Sunday like he did in UA’s two exhibition games but the McDonalds All-American said he was focused on doing his job.
“Whether you come off the bench or starting, when you go in the game you want to be productive with the minutes you do get,” Ashley said. “Starting isn’t necessarily the most important thing. You just want to come in and make sure that when you do get in the game you’re making the most of that time.”
Ashley is a central piece in the Wildcats’ ability to mix and match inside to suit the hot hand or to match up the best against an opponent. He is scheduled to play power forward and center this season but also considers himself a small forward (and Miller has said he will grow into one),
“We’ve got a lot of talented players who can play multiple positions,” Ashley said.
“We’ve got me, who can play the three and four. Grant can play the four and five. Solomon Hill can play multiple positions. A lot of the guys on our team can play multiple positions, and play them well. So knowing that there could be a lot of different lineups.”