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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona basketball utilizes its size in preseason opener

Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat

It wasn’t a perfect preseason opener for No. 12 Arizona, but after taking their foot off the brake at the end of the first half, the Wildcats blew out Division-II Humboldt State 108-67 Wednesday night in the McKale Center in front of 12,431 fans.

The Wildcats enter the season with high expectations thanks to the addition of the three freshmen big men and the transfer of senior guard Mark Lyons. All four players contributed on Wednesday, but the biggest of them all was 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski.

“One of the challenges is for us to utilize that size to our advantage all the time,” head coach Sean Miller said.

Tarczewski had a team-high 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, but the center also led the team with 10 rebounds. Arizona’s size was too much for the Lumberjacks, as the Wildcats outrebounded them 46 to 26 and limited Humboldt State to just 12 points in the paint.

“I’ve seen a lot of good glimpses from our team in general — defense and offense,” Lyons said. “The one thing I’m gonna take from it is we got the win, we played good, we played hard but, you know, we got to come back tomorrow, the day after and the day after that to get better. It’s a long process.”

The Wildcats started the game hot, jumping to an early 11-0 advantage. Midway through the first half the lead ballooned to 30-10, but the Lumberjacks finally began to battle back with a barrage of threes by the game’s leading scorer, forward Alec Williams. Williams finished the night with 22 points and shot 3-of-4 from three.

“I think we gave up too many points,” guard Nick Johnson said.

“But, I mean, we all can see the talent that we have, we just got to keep on finding that in practice.”

Johnson, who had 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting and five steals, said it’s the job of veterans like him and Lyons to keep the pressure up and stay on the young guys.

“We don’t want to run up the score (but) we want to beat people by what we need to and what we can,” Johnson said.

Before halftime the Lumberjacks cut the lead to single digits and Arizona led just 46-35 coming out of the break, but in the second half the difference in talent was clear.

Arizona shot 75 percent (24-for-32) in the second half to blow out the Lumberjacks.

“All things considered, I thought it was a good opening night,” Miller said. “I thought it was much better than the one we had last year and I think it’s something to learn from and build.”

Last season the Wildcats lost their exhibition opener to Seattle Pacific 69-68, but Wednesday the Wildcats never trailed and the play of Tarczewski and freshmen forwards Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley was a big part of it.

The game wasn’t flawless, though, as the frontcourt players struggled to cover Williams beyond the arc and Humboldt State connected frequently from deep.

“For our team to give up 9-of-19 from three, you’re really playing with fire,” Miller said. “I thought some of Humboldt’s open threes came from our rotation and just irresponsibility.”

The Wildcats also fouled Lumberjack jump shooter Williams four times, sending them to the line for some easy free throws.

Senior forward Solomon Hill was the guaranteed starter coming into the coming, who had 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and four turnovers, wa. Alongside him, Lyons, Johnson and Jerrett all played well in the first game action this preseason.

The starter at center, though, made the real difference for Arizona. Tarczewski struggled at times in the Red-Blue scrimmage and Johnson said he was nervous after the game. But Wednesday those nerves were nowhere to be found.

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