The Arizona Wildcats defeated the Montana Grizzlies by a score of 70-64, bringing the Wildcats to 6-1 on the season and 6-0 at home.
Head coach Sean Miller made a big change to the starting lineup against Montana, moving Azuolas Tubelis to the starting forward spot and moving Jordan Brown to center. Christian Koloko has seemed like the odd man out of this big man group and is now going to provide a spark off of the bench.
“You start to see him come into his own on the defensive end,” Miller said. “You can see he is a very talented young player. I think it gives us more of a scoring punch, it allows Jordan Brown to guard the five-man. It was based on watching our team, we felt that this group of five gave us the best chance to win.”
Tubelis filled the box score up in many different ways by scoring eight points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Jordan Brown also had a nice game, scoring 15 points along with six rebounds and was a perfect 5-5 shooting from the field. Koloko’s transition to the bench allowed Brown to get back to the dominant post player that we have seen flashes of early on in the season.
James Akinjo struggled in the Wildcats’ first loss last Saturday against Stanford but had a bounce-back game tonight by scoring 18 points to go along with five assists. Although Arizona finished 55.9% from the free-throw line, Akinjo was perfect from there tonight (6-6).
“Continue to work, continue to get better every day and improve on things that we need to improve on,” Akinjo said. “We are in a great place mentality and we are feeling really good about ourselves going into the Pac-12.”
“Really the last two games we are working on it,” Miller said of his team’s poor free-throw shooting. “Overall, we are a better free-throw shooting team than we have shown. Moving forward, we aren't going to have the luxury of shooting 55 percent [from the free-throw line] and winning.”
Along with foul shooting being a problem, Arizona’s overall shooting from the field wasn’t great tonight either as they were 24-57 (42.1%) overall as a team.
Freshman Dalen Terry has been struggling as of late and tonight didn't go well for him either as he only played 10 minutes and was 0-3 from the field. If Miller, along with his coaching staff, can figure a way to get him back to what we saw of him in high-school, this team could go to another level.
Arizona also announced before tonight's game that freshman Kerr Kriisa has been granted eligibility by the NCAA and can play in games starting Feb. 6. This is huge news for him and the program as he was rated as one of the Wildcats' best recruits and will add a ton to this team.
“I'm excited for Kerr and his family. When I told him the news, he was relieved,” Miller said. “He's a very good player but could be a great player down the road.”
Arizona has five days off before their next matchup against Colorado on Dec. 28, for its second conference game of the season.
Follow Ryan Wohl on Twitter