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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona men’s basketball opens season with win, defeats Mount St. Mary’s 78-55

The Arizona Wildcats cheer during the first half of Arizonas 78-55 win against Mount St. Marys at McKale on Friday. 
Keenan Turner/ The Daily Wildcat

The Arizona Wildcats cheer during the first half of Arizona’s 78-55 win against Mount St. Marys at McKale on Friday. 

The players in the starting lineup changed, but a familiar face in junior forward Brandon Ashley stole the show with a career-high 21 points in his return.

In his first game back since suffering a season-ending foot injury in early February, Ashley played what UA men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller said might have been his best game ever at Arizona, as the No. 2 Wildcats opened the season by defeating Mount St. Mary’s 78-55.

“Honestly, I didn’t really think about how I played, it was more so that I was able to get back on the court,” Ashley said.

Ashley shot 9-for-10 from the field with six rebounds, four of which were offensive, two steals, one assist and one foul in 28 minutes.

“It’s confirmation that I’m still able to compete at this level and I still feel good about myself,” Ashley said. “Honestly, playing well like that is also a confidence booster as well.”

Junior center Kaleb Tarczewski had a double-double with 10 points, on 5-for-6 shooting and 10 rebounds, to go with three blocks.

“Having Brandon out there makes it a whole lot easier for me to score in the post and it’s been awesome having him back,” Tarczewski said.

Sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did not start, but contributed 15 points and four rebounds. After not starting in Arizona’s exhibition, freshman forward Stanley Johnson was in the first five tonight. He scored eight points and had six rebounds.

Miller said they held out Hollis-Jefferson from practice on Thursday with a shoulder injury and since he didn’t practice, he couldn’t start.

“It’s not as much who starts as who plays well in the game,” Miller said. “I think it’s pretty clear that we have six players that are all kind of like starters.”

Miller deployed 12 Wildcats, 10 in the first half. Junior guard Kadeem Allen will redshirt, Miller said.

It was the first sporting event with all the seats of the newly renovated McKale Center. Attendance was 14,655.

Arizona forced 16 turnovers and lost the ball eight times. The Wildcats had 27 points off of turnovers inciting the crowd.

“Coach Miller always stresses defense to offense, when we get those turnovers and run,” Tarczewski said. “We’re so athletic and have such great basketball players that that really fuels us on offense.”

Arizona led for 39 minutes and 33 seconds and never trailed, but Miller was not happy about the Wildcats’ start, pointing out their five early turnovers and poor shooting from the foul line.

“Can we enter the game at the jump ball and be ourselves, early in the game,” Miller said. “Maybe from a starting lineup perspective, we have to take a hard look at who’s not performing or maybe as a coach I just say ‘everyday we’re going to get a little bit better and we’re going to be more sure of ourselves every game we play.’”

The Wildcats (1-0) shot 57 percent from the field, 25 percent from three and 48 percent from the free throw line. Mount St. Mary’s shot 38 percent from the field, 33 percent from three and 67 from the free throw line.

“Everybody to a man needs to step up and shoot the ball better from the foul line, everybody,” Miller said. “We’re a much better free throw shooting team than we’ve shown.”

Arizona scored 19 fast break points compared to zero for the Mount.

“We learn so much from playing guys like these and coaches like Sean Miller,” MSM head coach Jamion Christian. “I hope Arizona fans really understand what a great coach they have here and really appreciate what a great team they have here.”

On Sunday the Wildcats host Cal State Northridge in the EA Sports Maui Invitational Opening Round at 6 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks. The Matadors opened the season at No. 16 San Diego State with a 79-58 loss.

“I know this is hard for you to believe, but I haven’t watched them yet,” Miller said in the post game press conference when as about CSUN. “Well I’m going to tell you this, if you call me in an hour or two, I’m going to catch up.”

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