After averaging 14.3 points per game through Arizona’s first four games, Kyle Fogg disappeared.
The senior guard only scored a 6.7 point average over the Wildcats’ next three contests, including two losses, while shooting 7-for-19 from the field and 2-for-8 from 3-point range.
His dry spell continued into Saturday’s NAU game as Fogg went 0-for-4 in the first half, missing all three of his 3-point attempts. Arizona only led by six at halftime and Fogg was poised for another underwhelming game, until head coach Sean Miller addressed his senior leader.
“I just told him, ‘Kyle, take the shot that’s there and make it,’” Miller said. “‘Shoot the ball in. You’re a terrific shooter.’”
Fogg took his advice.
The 6-foot-3 guard drilled a triple on Arizona’s first possession, and he added two more 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, almost single-handedly stretching the Wildcats’ lead to 14.
“First half, I was being real tentative, not aggressive,” said Fogg, who missed only one shot in the second half. “In the second half, guys stayed with me, (Solomon Hill) was a big part of that. He told me to keep shooting and stay confident. If you put the work in, you’re going to make shots. Everybody did a great job finding me on the break and I was able to knock down some shots.
“I could be 0-for-100 and my guys would still have my back, and that means a lot.”
Fogg put up nearly 40,000 shots in the summer, and for two minutes and 34 seconds of game time against the Lumberjacks, it paid off.
“Kyle Fogg to me is the story of the game because he had 20 minutes where the ball couldn’t go in,” Miller said. “Yet he answered the bell in the first four minutes of the second half, like a senior, like a good shooter that he is. To me, we never really relinquished that cushion that he gave us coming out of halftime.”
With limited scoring options and no true go-to guy, Arizona needs Fogg to spread that shooting spurt across full games to give it an outside scoring threat.
“We need Kyle to shoot the ball well for our team,” Miller said.
More importantly, Fogg needs to keep Solomon Hill’s assist-to-turnover ratio in tact.
“I kind of joked with Fogg that by him shooting he’s helping my assist-to-turnover ratio,” Hill said with a laugh. “When he starts up faking and dribbling, it kind of takes my assists away.”
For the first time this season, center Kyryl Natyazhko didn’t see the floor. Arizona played small the majority of the game, while freshman Angelo Chol logged 11 minutes off the bench.
Miller said Natyazhko’s benching was simply a matchup decision.
“Tonight just didn’t favor Kyryl and future games will,” he said.
Natyazhko has struggled to give the Wildcats an interior presence lately, and seeing fewer minutes may become familiar to the junior.
Miller said he still wants to get Chol, who scored two points, grabbed two rebounds and blocked two shots against NAU, more minutes moving forward.
“Angelo’s had two or three of his best practices at Arizona this week,” Miller said. “I think the more minutes we can give him the better, not only for him but for our team.”
Another slow start, lineup could change
Arizona’s slow starts continued against the Lumberjacks as the Wildcats trailed NAU 12-5, nine minutes and six seconds into the game.
“I would love to be winning one time at the first media timeout,” Miller said. “No coach wants to be down every game.”
Arizona’s continuous slow starts have caused Miller to contemplate tweaking the starting lineup. Jordin Mayes, Fogg, Nick Johnson, Hill and Jesse Perry have started the last two games, but that could change soon.
“We have to continue looking at our starting lineup,” Miller said. “Who out of our starting lineup continues to not play well during those first four minutes and we have to make a change. That’s all part of coaching at Arizona right now, just make sure that we have the five guys that deserve to walk out there to play.”
The first candidate for a demotion would be Mayes, who went 0-for-4 in 16 minutes on Saturday.
“I’m not the guy who says they play well when they don’t, and he didn’t play well today,” Miller said of Mayes. “That doesn’t mean he’s not trying to play well or he hasn’t played well in practice. By evidence that he’s starting says that we believe in him. No question, if he would have played well today it would have helped us a lot.”