Mr. Consistency: Solomon Hill there when Arizona basketball needs him
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Men’s basketball vs ASU
Solomon Hill knows his role. It’s a bit less defined than the rest of Arizona’s roster, though.
Mark Lyons is the shot-maker and go-to scorer in crunch time.
Kevin Parrom is the sixth man, Nick Johnson the lockdown defender.
Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley are freshmen wunderkinds developing into the No. 6 Wildcats’ (16-1, 4-1) low-post presence.
So what does that make Hill?
Who knows? But he’s there when it counts.
Call him the trendsetter.
He is clutch, but not in the same way as Lyons.
He can score, but he can also win a game with a good pass, rebound or defensive stop.
Hill does what he has to do, when he has to do it.
“He’s one of our leaders,” Parrom said. “He has to be clutch.”
In a 71-54 win against ASU on Saturday, Hill scored 13 points in 39 minutes of action.
Lyons’ and Johnson’s scoring prowess, in the second half in particular, helped the Wildcats to a dominant win after a tightly contested first half.
But, it was a timely 3-pointer from Hill with less than 10 minutes remaining that spurred an 11-6 run to put the Sun Devils away, after they had brought the game within four points.
Perhaps the most important basket of the game was the first one.
Jordan Bachynski is supposed to be the best shot-blocker in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the country with 4.4 swats per game.
Hill downplayed Bachynski’s imposing presence in the paint during the days leading up to the ASU matchup.
And then, just 30 seconds into the game, Hill dunked on him.
“He likes to set guys up for blocks, so you go right in his face and show him this is a different team,” Hill said after Saturday’s game. “This is not the team you guys have been playing here.”
It was something he thought about all week, Hill said.
Bachynski still finished with three blocks, but the damage was done. The 7-foot-2 junior was unimpressive, with three points, six rebounds and three turnovers.
Hill set the tone for the game, and for the Wildcats team.
It helps that his confidence is at an all-time high.
Thursday’s match-up with longtime Pac-12 rival UCLA will mark Hill’s last “white-out” experience at McKale Center.
In last year’s against Washington, Hill scored a career high 28 points on 9-of-10 shooting but had zero assists, and the Wildcats lost the game.
So while he’s capable of being the best scorer on the floor, he doesn’t need to be. He goes where the Wildcats need him. He’s the consummate team player.
“I thought he was the best player on the court,” head coach Sean Miller said, “because when he scored, it really mattered.”
It’s a far cry from Hill circa 2009-10 — his freshman season — when he scored more than 10 points only eight times, and Arizona faltered in a 16-15 debut season for Miller.
Now, armed with a vastly improved 3-point jumper, excellent ball-handling ability and a keen sense of positioning for rebounds, Hill is often the most dangerous player on the court.
He might not consistently score points, but he consistently contributes.
“I think his freshman and sophomore years, he can tell you he wasn’t really consistent,” Parrom said. “I wasn’t either. I think this year we’re proving we can be consistent on the offensive and defensive end. That’s something that Solomon has done; that’s something I like from his game. He’s always consistent and he’s always doing something on the floor.”
In fact, Hill plays better when he shoots the ball less.
This season, when Hill attempted more than 10 shots, which happened six times, he converted 40 percent of the time. With 10 or fewer shots, which happened 11 times, he converted on 51.1 percent.
Taking more shots generally tends to reduce field goal percentage, so a better measure might be wins and losses.
Last season, when Hill shot the ball more than 10 times, Arizona was 3-5, compared to 20-7 with 10 or fewer.
His peripheral statistics might have something to do with that.
In the last two years, in games where Hill attempted 10 or fewer shots, Hill added 5.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.25 steals per game.
“The tempo and how much you put into the game is something you can control,” Hill said. “You’re not always going to hit the shot, but you can rebound or get a stop.”
Hill doesn’t always shoot the ball, but when he does, it counts.
He might not be the most interesting man in the world, but he might be Arizona’s most important.