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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

What we learned

What+we+learned

We learned that the Arizona men’s basketball team is grasping how to fight.

In a setting that could likely be recreated Feb. 19, when No. 20 Washington visits McKale Center, the Wildcats showed that they could play with the Huskies on the road — at least for 35 minutes.

The 85-68 loss in Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Thursday had a margin that pointed more toward the final five minutes, where Arizona’s will finally broke, than the entirety of the game. The Huskies went on 7-0 and 6-0 spurts throughout the game but the Wildcats kept fighting, keeping close through most of the second half.

“”To beat them, a lot of things have to happen,”” said head coach Sean Miller. “”I thought we had a couple open (shots). That final score, in my mind, is closer to eight to 10 points.

“”We had opportunities in the second half to really take the game to the final minutes. We didn’t answer the bell.””

UA forward Derrick Williams put up a respectable 22 points and 11 rebounds despite the Huskies’ size and collapsing defense. After the game, he vowed to help his team from folding down the stretch.

“”When we go to Pullman, we’ll be a whole different team,”” Williams said before Saturday’s game against Washington State. “”Everybody’s going to play hard. I’ll make sure of that.””

We learned that the Wildcats are slowly forming a defensive mentality.

For as much as the Wildcats struggled against Washington while shooting 40 percent to the Huskies 48 percent, Arizona took Williams’ guarantee and knocked off a talented Washington State Cougars squad 65-63 on Saturday.

While Williams struggled offensively facing rising Pacific 10 Conference big man DeAngelo Casto, he made up for it in recording 19 rebounds, tying the school-high for a Pac-10 game. Williams shot 4-for-13 from the field, but his rebounding suggests that he’s improving on his biggest weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball.

Meanwhile, Arizona held deadly Cougar guard Klay Thompson to nine points and five turnovers on 4-for-16 shooting. The effort came behind UA junior Kyle Fogg, whose scoring numbers have dropped from last season, possibly in light of his commitment at shutting down top-notch scoring guards.

And while mustering a lowly 36.8 percent shooting clip themselves, the Wildcats defense won themselves a low-scoring game that went down to the wire.

We learned that the Arizona men’s basketball team is still young.

Expectations often overlook the fact that Arizona’s roster consists of one senior, Jamelle Horne.

While relegated to the bench, Horne hit three well-placed 3-pointers — a recurring theme for Horne — against Washington State. Such is a testament to his experience.

But aside from the senior forward, Arizona’s rotation consists of two juniors, five sophomores, a freshman and a junior college transfer.

Against Washington, the Wildcats lost to a team reaping the benefits of veteran experience. The talk of the town was UW point guard Isaiah Thomas’ 22 point, 10 assists chopping up of Arizona’s defense, but at the other end of his passes were seniors Matt Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday, who scored 18 and 22 points, respectively.

The two Washington forwards are examples of player development in NCAA basketball, going from easy-to-look-past role players into team leaders. Perhaps it’s a good lesson in realizing that Arizona’s youth, despite all the games they’ve played, have a lot of room for growth.

“”Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday as seniors, you know, that’s what college basketball is all about,”” Miller said. “”You have these guys in your program where they contribute, they win. And then all of a sudden they become a senior, and it’s like, ‘Wow, they’re a different player.'””

Miller added: “”I really admire how Washington has their program in order.””

We learned that Miller knows a good guard when he sees one.

Last season, Miller told the media he believed some junior BYU guard named Jimmer Fredette was one of the NCAA’s best point guards. Fredette made everyone else agree, torching Arizona for 49 points in McKale Center.

Now a senior, Fredette is a player of the year front runner with UConn point guard Kemba Walker.

Before the game against the Huskies, Miller said Thomas was a top point guard in the country. Like Fredette, Thomas proved Miller right. Here’s everything we could fit in the paper about what the Arizona coach had to say about the UW’s motor.

“”Isaiah Thomas, it’s not even close, there’s not one player in the country that’s more disrespected across the nation than him. Not one. It’s not even close. If he’s not one of the top four or five point guards in the country, then I want to tell these guys who vote to come and watch film.

“”I watched him in the last two games. Against Cal he had 27 points and 13 assists. He was closer to having 30 and 20 assists. He followed that up with 22 points and 10 assists. He is dynamic.

“”In my opinion, if you name Kemba Walker and you name Jimmer Fredette, and certainly those two guys deserve all the accolades, he’s right there with those guys. How he’s playing and what he means to Washington, it’s important to what you have to deal with when you play these guys is that little monster. I mean that in the most positive way because he’s so controlling on the offensive end, you’re just at his mercy. He makes the game so easier for his teammates.

“”He is at the highest level as a college basketball player. Much different because he has the ball in his hands. When he has the ball in his hands, a lot of bad things happen for you.

“”He’s got a toughness about him, where you can almost tell his teammates have his personality. He really makes them go.””

— Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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