Arizona survives post-Halloween scare against Division 2 program Chico State tonight at the McKale Center. Ira Lee led the way for Arizona with a double-double in its 74-65 victory over the Wildcats from California.
While it was only an exhibition game and won’t show up in the record books for either team, there was plenty to be excited about as Arizona’s highly touted freshman class showed signs of what they can become this year. There were also plenty of freshman mistakes; however, that will need to get fixed if this team wants to be taken seriously when the season starts next week.
The top two returners from last year, Lee and Chase Jeter, led the way for Arizona, combining for 27 points and 21 rebounds. The new guys, Nico Mannion and Josh Green, struggled throughout while still showing flashes of what they’re capable of. In the first half, Mannion turned the ball over four times but still had five assists. In the second half he seemed to play with more confidence and only had one more turnover but only added one assist.
“Nico [Mannion] and Josh [Green] are really talented players but it'll take some time for them to learn,” Miller said about the two freshmen. “They had some really good moments but they also had some freshman moments.”
Despite McKale Center being one of the toughest places to play in the country, Chico St. didn’t back down. Back in the 2016-17 season, Chico St. came for an exhibition and only lost 78-70, so Sean Miller knew not to take them lightly.
“They’re a lot bigger than most Division 2 teams,” Jeter said. “So I think that caught some of the younger guys off guard. But heading forward we know things aren’t going to be so easy. We just got to adjust.”
Even though Arizona was actually down at halftime, they were able to get enough production out of Jeter and Green in the second half and pull away victorious. Arizona was also not playing with two important pieces. Sophomore Devonaire Doutrive and freshman Zeke Nnaji didn’t play tonight. Doutrive didn’t play because of a violation of team rules and Nnaji didn’t play because of an injury. While Nnaji should be ready by the opener next week, the status of Doutrive is unknown moving forward.
Arizona will be back in the McKale Center on Nov. 6 to take on NAU at 7 p.m. This will be the season opener and the first real look at the team.