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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“A bench, only by default”

A bench, only by default

Final Four contenders.

That’s what the Arizona basketball team might be if it could play nine-on-nine against other schools — especially the way everyone clicked last night.

Instead, five Wildcats start and another four or five play off the bench — only by technicality. The balance of talent makes it difficult to distinguish the importance of players based on when they enter.

Take last night’s 83-57 win against New Mexico State. Head coach Sean Miller turned to his bench early in the first half — substituting all five of his starters at once — and found something that clicked:

  • Even with a well-balanced attack, the Arizona offense starts with sophomore Derrick Williams. The forward had a huge day, scoring 27 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Not to be outdone, senior Jamelle Horne also added 10 points.
  • Jordin Mayes and Brendon Lavender combined for another lethal tandem beyond the arc. At one point they scored back-to-back 3s — just like last game — as part of a critical 12-0 run early in the first half.

Mayes finished with five points; Lavender with eight points and three assists.

The bench mostly watched during the second half, as the starters finished what the bench began.

“”We got off to a real slow start, but those guys came in and really held us down,”” said UA guard Kyle Fogg.

  • UA wing Kevin Parrom brought a dynamic array of steals, blocks and rebounds. In the span of a few minutes, Parrom’s defensive block turned into his own 3-pointer, then his defensive rebound flowed into his coast-to-coast finger roll layup.

He finished with five points, six rebounds and what Miller called the two best plays of the game.

“”That five that come in, all of us just came in to bring energy,”” Parrom said.

Miller added: “”I thought that was one of Kevin’s best games that he’s played at Arizona. The good news is he has a big upside to use the team.””

  • Jesse Perry brought a grind-it-out energy with his length. He finished with five points and three rebounds in only 11 minutes.

They’re only the second unit by technicality.

“”The strength of our team is that there’s not a big difference between the guy who starts the game and several of the players who come off the bench,”” Miller said.

Arizona’s bench easily opened up the game and clicked as a sustainable unit.

At halftime, Arizona starters shot 6-for-20 while the bench went 8-for-11. But the bench most notably broke a funk that the starting five couldn’t handle. New Mexico State’s full-court press and zone managed their own pace.

And that’s when Miller subbed in all five.

“”The first five guys really got winded like they should have, so we just put all new players in,”” Miller said. “”We’re comfortable doing that.””

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