Arizona basketball seniors make biggest impact against Chico State
Throughout the preseason, much of the talk concerning Arizona’s basketball team has revolved around its influx of young talent. In the UA’s final exhibition game on Tuesday at McKale Center, however, a 98-60 victory over Division-II Chico State, it was the wily veterans who made the biggest impact.
Seniors Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom were Arizona’s three leading scorers and scored a combined 40 points on 13-for-19 shooting. The three veterans were also efficient from the line, hitting 20-of-22 free throws, and they were key factors in a game in which Arizona never led by less than double-digits after the 11:08 mark in the first half.
“We’re counting on those guys to guide the ship, and if you look at our stat sheet tonight, Solomon and Mark Lyons both played like veteran players,” head coach Sean Miller said. “As the young players continue to learn and grow and get better, there are times where we are going to need our veterans.”
Tuesday night ended up being a perfect example of just that.
Center Kaleb Tarczewski, who started in the first exhibition against Humboldt State, fouled out with 7:24 left in the game and didn’t have a rebound on the night.
But where the young 7-footer struggled, Hill stepped in.
Hill led the team with eight boards, converting 13-of-14 on free throws, which helped him score 18 points on just 2-for-2 shooting.
“If you watched him tonight, he really let the game come to him,” Miller said. “He only had one turnover, he pushed the ball in transition and made people better. I thought the fact that he shot 14 free throws was indicative of when he attacked, he did it at the right time.
“He looked like a really good player tonight.”
As strong as Hill played, Lyons had an equally impressive game from the point. He led the team in scoring with 20 points and shot 7-for-9 from the field and a perfect 2-for-2 from beyond the arc.
“He gives us confidence at the point guard,” Hill said. “Like I’ve said before, we don’t have to worry about him. He’s a guy I don’t have to worry about, he’s a grown man.”
It wasn’t just the starting seniors who flourished Tuesday night.
Parrom, the only senior to come off the bench for consistent minutes, also put in a solid performance despite what Miller said were recent struggles in practice.
Parrom delivered a little of everything against Chico State, scoring 12 points with six boards, three assists and a steal in 20 minutes of action.
Miller said the veterans have been through the good, the bad and the battles. When situations rise and the young players struggle, steadying forces like Hill, Lyons and Parrom will be desperately needed.
The performance of the young big men wasn’t all bad, though, as the UA outrebounded Chico State 43-34 and the Wildcats scored 40 points inside the paint. But all four frontcourt players had foul trouble at one time or another, and sophomore Angelo Chol joined Tarczewski on the bench after fouling out late.
“We’ve been guiding them since the summer time,” Parrom said.
“These guys are very mature for their age group.”
A part of the freshmen’s growing pains was on full display Tuesday night, though. At the start of the second half, Chico State forward Amir Carraway scored 11 of his team’s first 13 points.
While the brief run was neutralized by an Arizona offensive burst, it wasn’t the first hot streak to happen. In the UA’s other preseason game, Humboldt State’s forward Alec Williams went on an 11-0 run late in the first half.
“That’s great that it happened because we learned from it,” Miller said. “But it’s a sign of things to come that our big guys have to continue to learn to play college defense. And they’re not there yet, as expected.”