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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Illusion of youth

Freshman forward Derrick Williams fends off a Washington State defender during Arizona?s 78-60 loss in Pullman, Wash., last Saturday.  The Wildcats have a chance to bounce back, with five of their remaining seven games at home.
Freshman forward Derrick Williams fends off a Washington State defender during Arizona?s 78-60 loss in Pullman, Wash., last Saturday. The Wildcats have a chance to bounce back, with five of their remaining seven games at home.

Nobody would dare say the Arizona men’s basketball team has more than two experienced players. But with only seven games remaining in the season, five of which are at home, Arizona’s youth may now be an illusion as the Oregon Ducks drop into McKale Center for an 8:30 tip-off tonight.

“”A lot of good, young players, you know, it’s a bonus if they play well, and if they don’t, their team can still win,”” said UA head coach Sean Miller. “”That’s not the case with this year’s team.””

Forward Derrick Williams was one of the last players Miller signed in his first year at Arizona (12-11, 6-5 Pacific 10 Conference), but he leads the team in scoring and rebounding. Last Saturday, 6-foot freshman Momo Jones again met his season high of four assists. Freshmen wings Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill have split time at the starting small forward position as well.

Miller said Wednesday that the starting lineup might be tweaked against Oregon (12-10, 4-6) after the Wildcats dropped their two previous games at the Washington schools.

Any changes would likely involve a highly important freshman class.

“”We depend on them so much more than any team I’ve been a part of,”” Miller said. “”Several of them have a significant role.””

Hill, who was swapped out of the starting lineup for Parrom, has taken well to his move to the bench.

“”I don’t want to say I feel comfortable coming off the bench,”” Hill said. “”It’s like those first four minutes of the game, Kevin Parrom, he really establishes himself on the court. He gets it going fast, and I think that’s exactly what we needed.””

Miller said Hill had one of his better games against Washington last Thursday, scoring 12 points and earning three assists.

But as the season fades, the Wildcats will need more than Hill to play well.

“”I like to think that our freshmen, our sophomores, our team generally, is more prepared, better suited and improved for the stretch run,”” Miller added. “”It’s an important stretch, no question.””

Miller has reason to be optimistic about his team’s improvement.

According to a press release by the athletic department, the Wildcats have the No. 2-ranked strength of schedule according to the Sagarin Rankings. At home, they have played teams with a combined 63 percent win percentage, in addition to playing a road schedule against teams at a 62 percent winning percentage. Also, Arizona has the fewest home games played of teams in the six major conferences in the nation.

Experience has paid dividends for the Wildcat freshmen, as the team is now in a five-way tie for second place in the Pac-10 and with an advantageous remaining schedule.

“”Anytime you come in as a freshman, you don’t expect to come in and be a starter,”” Williams said. “”You just want to be role players and stuff like that. It’s especially been hard for us since we’ve started for most of the season. We’ll watch film and stuff — we see what we’ve messed up on.””

Having the chance to make mistakes has given Williams the opportunity to fix them.

But the chance to be within arm’s-length of the conference title this deep into the season is all thanks to the growth of the young Wildcats.

“”If we didn’t have Nic Wise, I don’t know what our record would be,”” Miller said, “”and if we can only imagine if we didn’t have them as a freshman class, where would we be? Their individual play and their play as a group will be a big indicator in how we finish.””

 

Zona Museum?

When asked if the team would need support from the McKale Center crowd, Miller said he thought his team’s preparation would be the main reason for a win against the Oregon schools.

But he also peppered in mild disappointment, complimenting the Washington Dawg Pack student section.

“”I would say that the Washington crowd, their students are great,”” Miller said. “”I mean there is a reason Washington has the home court record that they do. They feed off their crowd.

“”I feel like really the whole season for me has been a good one here at McKale, but the last game (against California) was whole different level of crowd.””

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