Arizona returns to McKale Center for a matchup against Southern Mississippi on Tuesday. The Golden Eagles are coming off their first loss of the season, a 68-60 defeat at New Mexico State. Southern Miss is 6-1 on the year.
It may not be saying much, but the Golden Eagles are likely the best team the Wildcats have faced so far. Southern Miss already owns a road victory against one major conference opponent; they took down the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime.
The Golden Eagles, though, are severely undersized. They start three 6’5” forwards and no center. One of those forwards, Dwayne Davis, has emerged as the Golden Eagles’ best player. He averages about 15 points and five rebounds while shooting better than 50 % from the field.
The second starting forward, Jonathan Mills, is the only other Southern Miss player who averages double figures. At 240 lbs, Mills is the beefiest of the starters and collects a surprising 7.6 rebounds per game. The third starting forward, Michael Craig, is the next leading scorer on the team at just under 10 points per game. Wildcats reaching new heights:
Last season Sean Miller repeatedly bemoaned his team’s lack of size, which he coined as “death by inches.” During the off-season, however, no coach in the country recruited a more talented group of big men than Miller. Last season’s weakness is now a strength, and the freshmen post players delivered against Texas Tech.
Grant Jerrett set career highs in points and assists while turning in his most complete game of the season. Brandon Ashley had his usual strong performance, scoring 12 points on 4/5 shooting. On the defensive end, Ashley now has at least one block in each game.
Perhaps most impressive of all was the way Kaleb Tarczewski dominated the glass. The 7-foot freshman grabbed 13 boards—more than double his previous high.
The performance of these three young Wildcats is even more impressive considering the competition. Although Texas Tech is a rebuilding team, they featured a talented post player in Dejan Kravic. The 6’11” center came into the game averaging 13.5 points and six rebounds. Arizona held him to four points and three rebounds, both season lows. Prediction:
Aside from opening day jitters, Arizona has not been truly challenged this season. There’s no reason to expect that trend to change when the overmatched Golden Eagles come to town. Arizona has a colossal size advantage over Southern Miss and should have its way in the paint. As long as the Wildcats avoid looking ahead to upcoming battles with Clemson and Florida, they should have no trouble taking care of business.