'Cats ride Mustangs in final exhibition
The UA men's basketball team made a statement Tuesday night.
Playing in their final exhibition game before the ""real"" season begins against NAU on Sunday, the Wildcats scorched Division II Western New Mexico 96-55 in McKale Center before an announced attendance of 13,348.
Every backboard-bending dunk from UA centers Kyryl Natyazhko and Derrick Williams, every no-look pass from point guard Nic Wise and every Wildcat 3-pointer made the same statement for Arizona:
Bring on the ""real"" season.
""I think it's starting to speed up now,"" Wise said. ""The only thing that hurts us is a lot of injuries and sicknesses ... but we finally had a full team today. If we have a full team this upcoming week, we should be rolling a little bit faster for the NAU game.""
Wise left the game for good with 9:35 left and Arizona up 77-41. In just 23 minutes of work, the Wildcats' lone senior tallied a game-high 21 points and 8 assists, to go with 5 rebounds.
""I'm really excited about Nic Wise,"" said UA head coach Sean Miller. ""To me, he's ready to have a terrific senior year. He's so important to what we do.""
With 15:41 left in the game, Wise threw a bounce-pass behind him—under his legs—to Arizona's second-leading scorer, Jamelle Horne, who slammed home two of his 15 points, giving the Wildcats a 65-30 lead.
""He made a clever play, he really did,"" Miller said with a smile. ""... Nic doing that is maybe different than someone else. He's earned the right to be creative.""
UA head coach Sean Miller used all 15 of his players in the blowout win, and 11 scored.
Arizona shot 52.9 percent (37-for-70) from the field, and only allowed the Mustangs to make 31 percent (18-for-58) of their shots.
The Wildcats showed excellent ball distribution, with 30 assists being registered on the team's 37 field goals.
""I feel like we're a really unselfish team,"" said guard Kyle Fogg, who didn't play in the team's last game because of the flu. ""We're really close off the court, and I think you can see on the court that we love to give up the ball to get an open shot for another guy. When he makes it, you feel just as good as when you're making the shot.""
The Wildcats certainly had plenty to feel good about.
Arizona sealed the game early, going up by as much as 29 points in the first half. The Wildcats shot 54.5 percent (18-for-33) in the opening 20 minutes, while holding the Mustangs to just 24.1 percent (7-for-29).
Though the game started off sluggish on both ends of the court, it didn't take long for Arizona to take off.
With 10:20 remaining in the first half, Wise scored a layup to put Arizona up 28-9. A layup by center Alex Jacobson 40 seconds later gave the Wildcats a 30-9 lead to seal a 15-0 run.
Western New Mexico guard Tony Riley, Jr. ended the Wildcats' run with a free throw after being fouled by Jacobson, but that was the only blip in a 24-1 UA run, ending in a 3-pointer by Wise and two trey by guard Brendon Lavender. Arizona was propelled ahead 39-10 with 6:48 left in the half.
Shooting 4-for-10 from the field and 3-for-9 from beyond the arc, Lavender scored 11 points, making him one of four Wildcats to score in double digits.
""Brendon has been, to me, the most pleasant surprise for our staff,"" Miller said. ""He's been solid since we got here. Very unselfish, great attitude.?""He made a few 3s tonight, but really, he has shot the ball better every day in practice than he has in a game,"" Miller added.
The Mustangs didn't help themselves out when allowed. With 4:39 left in the first half, Riley, Jr., botched a wide-open, one-handed dunk attempt.
With 6:05 left in the game, Arizona pushed its lead to 40 points when sophomore Garland Judkins slammed an uncontested one-handed dunk, making the score 85-45.
The Wildcats went up as much as 44 points with moments left in the game—a team statement with five days to go until the ""real"" season begins.
""I thought tonight was about our team developing and getting better,"" Miller said. ""... I thought tonight our team took a step forward. We were better, we were more organized, we were more about moving in the positive direction than we were in the negative.
There were some familiar faces on Western New Mexico's bench.
- Mustangs head coach Mark Coleman was Miller's coach when he played at Pittsburgh.
- Five of the 11 players on WNMU's roster are from Arizona. Three went to high school in Tucson, one hails from Phoenix and one came from Nogales. Sophomore forward Eli Crevelone, who went to Canyon Del Oro High School in northern Tucson, scored a team-high 15 points.