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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats scrape together second win (w/ Gallery)

Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat

There were moments of brilliance on offense and defense for the UA men’s basketball team on Thursday night, but miscues on both sides of the floor made for a sloppy win.

The Wildcats (2-0) beat Rice (3-1) 66-49 in McKale Center in their last home game before heading to Hawaii this morning, though the score is deceiving.

“”We’re not a very good team right now,”” said UA head coach Sean Miller. “”We are, I think, a team that can get a lot better.””

Arizona shot a decent 41.9 percent (13-for-31) from the floor in the first half while holding Rice to an ice-cold 19.4 percent (6-for-31). Ironically, however, the Wildcats tallied more turnovers, (12) in the first half than Rice (10) in the first half.

Arizona’s sloppy play slipped over into the second half as Rice improved. The Wildcats sunk 27-of-60 shots (45 percent) overall, and the Owls made just 18-of-63 (28.6 percent).

“”We had great effort on defense at times, and that’s a starting point,”” Miller said. “”But it’s a new season, it’s a young season, and we have a lot of different guys working through things.””

Despite many botched passes and missed layups, there were plenty of offensive blasts for the Wildcats. Four minutes into the second half, Derrick Williams posterized a Rice defender with a nasty one-handed slam that gave Arizona a 39-27 lead and brought many of the 13,531 fans in McKale Center to their feet.

Williams took advantage of his start over fellow freshman center Kyryl Natyazhko by scoring 10 points on 5-for-10 shooting, pulling down six rebounds and swatting two of the team’s three blocks.

Williams, who has been exclusively a center, said he is still getting used to the team’s offense at the power forward position, which he just started playing a few days ago in practice, he said.

“”Learning two separate positions … is a lot harder than just going out there and playing, like high school,”” Williams said.

An 18-point first-half lead quickly melted into a 6-point lead with 12:11 to go in the game, thanks to a bucket by Rice guard Tamir Jackson, making the score 46-40.

“”It’s not our offense that lets teams back in, it’s our defense,”” said point guard Nic Wise, who led all scorers with 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. “”We’ve just got to learn to keep locking up for 40 minutes and never let our guard down.””

Arizona was able to slowly increase its lead again as time slipped away. Toward the end of the game, Arizona went on a 9-1 run to go up 64-45, with the first 7 points of the run coming from Jamelle Horne, who was one of four Wildcats to score in double digits with 13 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds.

Arizona started the game on a 9-0 run and didn’t allow Rice to score for the first 5:20. The Wildcats went ahead 24-6 with 5:54 to go in the first half when Wise and sophomore Kyle Fogg both hit pull-up jumpers from beyond the arc.

Holding their leads, however, is still a work in progress.

Miller has been trying to instill in his team that not letting up in practice will translate into Arizona’s games, Wise said.

“”A lot of times we kind of die down toward the end (of practices),”” Wise said. “”We’re tired or ready to go — stuff like that. He’s been drumming us on finishing in practice, and we’ll do the same in games.””

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