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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Injuries leave Arizona basketball with short rotation

Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat Arizona senior guard Brendon Lavender shushes the crowd late in the second half of the Arizona Wildcats match-up against the Stanford Cardinal in Maples Pavilion on Saturday, February 4, 2012. The Wildcats went on to win 56-43

When the 2011-12 Arizona basketball season began, head coach Sean Miller said he figured he had 10 or 11 different players who could contribute on a nightly basis.

Miller expected to use that depth to mask Arizona’s missing superstar, and a nine- or 10-man rotation seemed imminent.

Now, with 24 games in the books, Miller’s down to seven.

Freshman big man Sidiki Johnson ran himself out of Tucson. Kyryl Natyazhko has proven ineffective, resulting in five DNPs. Kevin Parrom is out for the season, and Jordin Mayes isn’t far behind him with a left foot injury — the same foot that required offseason surgery.

Miller was forced to play seven players at least 20 minutes against Stanford, and until Mayes returns, that’s going to be the norm.

“It’s hard, but the way we prepare in the offseason, we’re always ready,” UA forward Solomon Hill said. “Guys have to step up.”

The onus was on Brendon Lavender and Angelo Chol against the Cardinal, and the duo delivered. Lavender hit two 3-pointers in 20 minutes, one of which capped Arizona’s 10-0 second-half run catapulting the team to victory. Chol also made his presence felt, blocking four shots in 20 minutes.

“Guys stepped up to the challenge,” guard Kyle Fogg said.
But although Arizona’s thin bench came to play against Stanford, that won’t always be the case. Then there’s the issue of foul trouble, which UA ran into against Stanford.

Hill picked up his fourth foul with 11:32 left in the second half and UA up 35-32, forcing Miller to sit the versatile junior. Two minutes later, after Stanford tied things up at 35, Miller sent Hill back to the scorer’s table.

Miller was forced to bring Hill back earlier than he wanted, and it ended up working out. But with UA’s bench so thin, the Wildcats can’t afford errant fouls early in the game.

“Foul trouble is different now,” Miller said. “You never want one of your starters to get in foul trouble but we don’t have a lot of room for error. We subbed today a little differently just trying to get guys breathers as opposed to extended rest. That’s what we have to do.”

Arizona Shaq-shooters

Arizona’s free throw shooting has gotten so bad, even Parrom is giving his teammates an earful.

“The Arizona Shaq-shooters,” Parrom tweeted during the Stanford game.

The tweet was well-deserved, as Arizona shot 15-for-25 from the line against Stanford and 15-for-29 against Cal, highlighting a problem that’s existed in most of UA’s conference games.

“We definitely have to work on that,” said Nick Johnson, who shot 5-for-12 from the line on the Bay Area trip. “If we would have made our free throws at Cal we probably would have scored 95 points and if we made them (against Stanford) it wouldn’t have been a game. We’re definitely going to work on that.”

Arizona’s attempted the third-most free throws in the Pac-12, but its inability to cash in at the charity stripe adds another avoidable obstacle the Wildcats must overcome.

Johnson, Perry and Turner are all shooting under 65 percent from the line, which has to change, Miller says.

“It’s a concern,” Miller said. “One of the things that’s unique about our team is that we shot the ball from the foul line very well for a long period of time. I believe our entire non-conference season we were one of the best free throw shooting teams in our conference.

“That’s really important because, without a lot of people realizing, we’ve established getting to the line. When that’s something that’s striking in your favor, you want to take advantage of it. Missing free throws will hurt us but I’m confident in saying that we can shoot them better than we are.”

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