Arizona may or may not have learned something from Sunday’s game with Missouri – considering the Tigers’ travel trouble and general rebuilding issues – but the Wildcats found this out beforehand:
Kadeem Allen is a pretty tough guy.
Allen had to be helped off the court with a sprained ankle suffered last Wednesday in the UA-Fresno State, but came back to practice Saturday, and started Sunday’s game.
“He’s a fighter,” guard Gabe York said. In the preseason, “he did something wrong with his shoulder. I don’t even know what it was, and he came back within two weeks and the recovery process was supposed to be like three and a half (weeks).
“I was never worried about Kadeem. That’s somebody you can’t keep off the court. That just goes to show his strength and his ability and everything that he brings to the table for this team.”
We asked Sean Miller if the shoulder story and the quick ankle recovery indicated Allen was some sort of fast healer.
“He’s a pretty tough kid,” Miller said. “A little bump and bruise isn’t going to keep him out.”
To the Wildcats’ relief, that is.
Having Allen available was “very important,” Miller said. “After the (Fresno) game we weren’t real sure what his status would be. But he worked really hard the last couple of days. He’s working academics, working with our team and on his ankle so he has a lot going on.
"But to his credit, he got himself ready to play here tonight. Thank goodness. We needed him to continue to develop and I like the track that he’s on.”
So what's up with Elliott Pitts? For the second straight game, the junior forward came out in team gear for early workouts – and then returned for the final pregame warmups wearing khakis and sitting out again.
Miller said the status of Pitts’ “personal issue” remains the same and that he “can’t expand beyond what I’ve said.”
Miller’s stated limitation might suggest that it’s an issue covered by the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act – which can restrict coaches from commenting about academics or health issues unless the student approves.
“He’s dealing with a personal issue and until that’s resolved his status won’t change,” Miller said.
Miller said the Wildcats have a difficult week ahead, with a game against NAU Wednesday coming just the fall semester winds up this week with finals and papers still due for many players. Then there's a game Saturday with UNLV.
But Gabe York said he had only one final left, on Tuesday morning. He said he’ll take a winter session course but is on schedule to graduate this spring.
“I’m getting my degree,” York said. “I’m very happy.”
Mark Tollefsen, the other player UA brought in the postgame interview room Sunday, has already graduated from San Francisco but is taking three graduate level courses this semester. He said he has only a paper left to do by Monday night and plans afterward to “go to the gym to celebrate and get shots up.”
To that, Tollefsen was asked: Is that really how you celebrate?
“That’s how I’m going to celebrate,” Tollefsen said.
While writing this post, I flipped on a replay of the Pac-12 Networks’ telecast of the UA-Missouri game and the first thing I heard Bill Walton say was this: “The Tigers seemed to have left their defensive game back in the hangar in Lubbock, Texas.”
The Tigers did have a nine-hour delay in Texas because of plane trouble, though coach Kim Anderson didn’t use that as an excuse, but it begs this question: How much of UA’s 56.4 percent shooting was the Wildcats’ efficiency, unselfishness and talent, and how much was it about the Tigers giving them some room?
Anderson indicated it was a little of both.
“The whole night was disappointing,” Anderson said. “I think (Arizona) played well. I give them a lot of credit. I thought our confidence was shaken a little bit and at times they were playing above the rim and we were just standing there watching.”
Anderson called a timeout 89 seconds into the game, after the Tigers turned the ball over twice and UA was already ahead 6-0, but obviously that didn’t make much difference.
“I had to tell them to calm down,” Anderson said. “We talked about what we were going to do, but we did not execute it. We had young guys in this great environment. This is a great place, and I just wanted to calm them down. I give Arizona credit. They shot the ball really well.”
Miller, meanwhile, said the Wildcats did a “really good job of playing unselfishly on offense” and was glad to see them string together two halves of good defense instead of only one, as they had in the past two games.
“Our defense was good from start to finish,” Miller said.
Miller found a “silver lining” in his three absences Sunday – Kaleb Tarczewski (foot), Ray Smith (knee) and Pitts – by having a chance to give significant minutes to freshman Justin Simon and Chance Comanche, while starting and leaning heavily again on Dusan Ristic at center.
It’s “not just in games but also (in having) our undivided attention as coaches in the practice environment,” Miller said. “We have a number of young players who are getting reps and they now come into a game and learn how it feels to come into a game. I think it’ll bring out the best in them.
“We always try to look at what we’re doing as preparing for the moments that count and the continued development with Chance and Justin, preparing them for those big games when we need them … the better players they are, the better our team will get.”
Miller said he’s challenging Tollefsen to be a better defensive rebounder, and to also consider shooting from within the three-point arc more often.
After he went 7-for-10 from the field Sunday, and 1 for 2 from three-point range, Tollefsen is shooting 26.9 percent from three – but 65.9 percent from two-point range.
“The thing that’s been surprising for me with Mark is he’s exceptional scoring from two,” Miller said. “If you look at his shooting percentage from two he’s maybe the best on our team (Allonzo Trier is shooting 68.8 percent from inside the arc).
“We have to get him the ball. He has to think in those terms. Sometimes, he’ll float to the three-point line and although he was 1 of 2 tonight, he hasn't shot the ball consistently well from three. If he gets 6 or 8 two-point shots he’ll make 60 percent of those and that’s something we have to do a better job of helping him with.”
The Kansas City Star game story had some detail on how the Tigers did a walk-through practice in that Lubbock hangar.
Terrence Phillips told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he was impressed how hard Arizona played throughout the game.
The box score is attached as a PDF.