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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Youth, new roles plague Wildcats in loss

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UA men’s basketball team lost to Seattle Pacific on October 27, 2011 at University of Arizona’s McKale Center.

Turnovers. Mental mistakes. Missed free throws. Late defensive rotations. Lack of toughness on the glass. No interior presence in the paint. No go-to guy to take clutch shots.

Arizona’s lack of experience among its four freshmen coupled with the redefined roles of its returners resulted in the Wildcats’ 69-68 loss to Seattle Pacific on Thursday night in McKale Center — their first home loss since March 11, 2010.

“We’re trying to bring in four freshmen to a group, a group that although has a lot of returners, they have new roles with bigger pressure,” said UA head coach Sean Miller. “Notice at the end of the game, free throws that win games were shot. Shots to win games were shot. Guys needed to get big stops. Although we have a lot of returners, they’re in different roles.”

Junior Kyryl Natyazhko was never asked to play major minutes last season. In fact, he’s never played more than 17 minutes in a game in his UA career. That lack of experience showed up against the Falcons, as he pulled down just one board in 24 minutes.

Senior leader Kyle Fogg was a role player and lockdown defender on last year’s Elite Eight team. He’s expected to be one of Arizona’s go-to-guys this season. In his first game as a leader, he went 1-for-4 with three points in 26 minutes on Thursday.

Senior forward Jesse Perry will be counted on to shoulder the rebounding load this season after being the garbage man of sorts during the 2010-11 season. He grabbed only two boards in 29 minutes, as the Wildcats were out-rebounded 29-20 on the night.

“I can’t really explain what it was. It was just one of those days. There’s no excuse why we didn’t rebound,” Perry said. “We’ve just got to crash the boards more.”

Perry also missed the front end of a one-and-one late in the game that, had he made both free throws, would have cut the deficit to two with less than a minute remaining.

Solomon Hill embraced his larger role by scoring 16 points, grabbing six boards and collecting four steals in a team-high 30 minutes. But even he missed a crucial free throw late in the game.

Then there’s the Arizona freshmen. Shooting guard Nick Johnson looked as good as advertised, going for 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 3-of-5 from three.

“I think Nick played pretty well tonight,” Hill said. “He played great.”

But the rest of the freshmen, save Josiah Turner who scored seven points and dished out four dimes, looked months away from contributing immediately.

Sidiki Johnson, like Natyazhko, grabbed only one board and was ineffective defensively. He missed four point-blank shots and seemed fatigued in the first half. Johnson and Natyazhko were so ineffective that Miller said he may consider playing Angelo Chol, who played only eight minutes, at the center spot.

As Miller said, Arizona’s a young team with its returning players in new roles. That showed Thursday night. The Wildcats have a long road ahead before they’ll be able to compete with the Pac-12.

“We had a lot of younger players making bad decisions. We weren’t very good. We just weren’t,” Miller said. “It’s scary to think that nine, 10 days from now we’re opening up and we’re playing two games in three days. We have to get a lot better to go from where we are tonight, to that period of time and we’ll work hard to do that.”

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