Ezra Amacher Player of the Week: Solomon Hill
While most of the Arizona offense was in a funk, the senior forward continued to show why he is one of the more valuable players in the entire nation. On Thursday, Hill played a fundamental part in the Catsí 16 point second half comeback against Colorado. No play in the game was bigger than the crucial three pointer he knocked down with 1:44 remaining. Then against Utah, Hill accounted for nearly one third of all of Arizonaís scoring. In a game which the rest of his teammates shot 29%, he battled through the stifling Utes defense and helped the Catsí stay unblemished. What Did We Learn? The good outweighs the bad with Mark Lyons.
Arizona fans have an understandable love/hate relationship with the fifth year senior point guard. Without his continued late game heroics, the Cats could very likely be 10-4 right now. But if Lyons would look to distribute the ball more rather than continuously take contested shots, maybe not every game would have to come down to the wire. However, after a season of not having any players who want to take the shot, Lyonsí confidence rubs off on the entire team. Without him, where would Arizona be right now? Arizonaís freshmen bigs are a work in progress.
When the three former five star high school All-Americans arrived on campus, the expectations were enormous. And while the three have each shown glimpses of greatness, none have been able to consistently give Arizona premier play in the paint on both sides of the ball. As Sean Miller said after the too-close-for-comfort Utah victory, ďFreshmen eventually cross a line where theyíre no longer freshmen, and just players.Ē That line hasnít been crossed yet. As goes Nick Johnson, so goes the offense.
More than a handful of fans couldnít quite get their heads around what was missing over the past couple games that made the Arizona offense look like it was stuck in tar. The answer: Nick Johnson took 20 field goal attempts against Utah and Colorado. He made just four. Itís not an exaggeration to say that if Bunnies was feeling it either game, there would have been no need for the drama that occurred in McKale Center. One can only hope that this was just a short slump. Two Predictions for the Oregon Road Trip Arizona will come out of the gate with a different poise.
At the presser following the Utah game, Sean Miller went as far as to call out the play and progress of individual players, although stopping short of naming them. I imagine he didnít use the same courtesy in his post-game locker room speech.
After back to back outings of looking lethargic and disinterested at times, hereís a guess that Arizona will start playing with the type of fire and tenacity expected from a team of its caliber. Paraphrasing Millerís comments from Saturday, if a guy isnít giving 100% on both sides of the ball, donít expect to see him on the floor much. Oregon will provide quite a challenge for Arizona in the paint.
Few players in the country are as dynamic as Arsalan Kazemi, the 6í7 Iranian born forward. According to kenpom.com, he leads the nation in defensive rebounding efficiency and is fifth in steal efficiency. Offensively, he isnít someone who will light it up, but Arizonaís freshmen bigs have struggled in slowing down opposing post players.
Meanwhile, Tony Woods gives the Ducks a size presence at center that could spell trouble for Kaleb Tarczewsi. Zeus is still getting the hang of adjusting to the college game but thereís no denying how important he has been to Arizona recently. If Woods can get him into early foul trouble, the Catsí chances of walking out of Eugene with a win will take a big hit. One Parting Thought
When Arizona was down 16 points to Colorado in the second half, I was almost certain from the reactions on social media that if I was to look outside, the sky would be tumbling down. What is so often lost in the heat of a game is a little something called perspective. A loss to Colorado, or heaven forbid Utah, would have stung.
But it wouldnít have been detrimental to the progress of this season or the long term future, and neither will the inevitable loss(es) to come.
This is not college football where one defeat often marks the end to a teamís national title hopes. In college basketball, perfection isnít achieved unless your coachís last name was Wooden. Instead, itís one long season of progression with the hopes that by March, a group of 18-22 year old college students is capable of winning six straight games on neutral court.
Arizona has both the talent and leadership to do just that, even if it sure didnít feel like it when the Cats were a possession away from losing to a team that had previously fallen to Cal-State Northridge.