While collecting 20 wins already this season, the Arizona Wildcats have had a player dinged up here and some foul trouble there, but have never really been short-handed.
In Wednesday's 73-66 win over Stanford at McKale Center, the Wildcats overcame significant personnel issues for the second straight game when Mark Lyons had a season-high 25 points, Solomon Hill had 20 of his 23 points in the second half and Angelo Chol, of all people, grabbed a career-high eight rebounds.
Already, in a win at Washington State on Saturday, the Wildcats had to overcome an illness to guard Nick Johnson, foul trouble by Lyons and an ejection to Kevin Parrom.
On Wednesday, it was arguably even worse. Before the game, the Wildcats opted not to play backup forward Grant Jerrett because of a low-degree stress reaction in his left foot. They also still didn't have a recovering Johnson back at full speed. They watched Brandon Ashley foul out and found center Kaleb Tarczewski ineffective because of Stanford's spread-out offense.
"Tonight we dealt with it again," UA coach Sean Miller said.
The good news for Arizona, and its fans, was that all those holes in the interior left an unusually large gap for the popular Chol to climb through. The humble and personable boyhood refugee from Sudan played a career-high 24 minutes while scoring six points.
He also, in what Miller found perhaps most important, used his athleticism and hustle on defense to help limit Stanford's athletic big men.
"The stat sheet doesn't really reveal the impact he had," Miller said. "He defended players who are very difficult to defend, and if he didn't do it, it was 'game over' because we didn't have anybody else."
Stanford did get 24 points from center Dwight Powell, and a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards from Josh Huestis. But the Cardinal's best three-point shooters were largely quiet after Stanford shot 56 percent or better from long range in wins over Oregon and Oregon State last weekend.
Arizona kept the Pac-12's hottest three-point shooting team to 36.8 percent from beyond the arc, despite its ominous 4-for-7 start, and held Stanford to just 37.9 percent from the field.
The Cardinal had two 6-10 players, Powell and John Gage, who entered the game averaging 50 percent or better from three-point range, but only Gage scored from behind the arc, and just once.
"They turned up the defense and were able to hold us off the three," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "That's something that we've been relying on a lot this year."
Offensively, the Wildcats surprised in more subtle ways. Lyons' 25 points, while a season high, was hardly a surprise, with him cutting to the basket and brushing off a variety of bumps and bruises he absorbed along the way.
But it was the fact that Lyons also had six assists and two turnovers, including a crisp bounce pass to Chol for a second-half layup, that really impressed Miller.
"That was his best game at Arizona," Miller said. "It wasn't because he scored. He's done that. But he really was a point guard tonight. He was running his team, running a lot of things we have been talking about."
Of course, it was not a surprise, either, that Hill had 23 points. But what was a surprise was how 20 of them came in the second half, when Tarczewski wasn't a factor, when Ashley was on the way out and when Stanford was threatening to stick around for an upset.
Through the first 10 minutes of the second half, UA cut Stanford's lead to one point five times but only led once before the Wildcats finally broke through with six minutes to go when Hill hit a three-pointer and made two free throws to tie it at 54.
Arizona led by just one with three minutes left before Lyons hit a three-pointer and Hill scored to put UA ahead 63-57. Later, Parrom hit a three-pointer from the corner with 1:38 left and Hill drove inside for a dunk that gave UA a 67-61 lead with 1:07 left that all but put the game away.
"I picked it up," Hill said. "I started off pretty terribly, but you have to put that behind you and keep pressing. … (At halftime) coach told me to keep shooting. It was nothing to worry about. I just stuck with it."
What was a worry to Miller was Stanford's early 10-0 lead and the fact that Arizona did not score for the first four minutes of the game. Miller said he would reconsider his starting five because of that, with Parrom being a "candidate" to join the lineup.
But overall, Miller wasn't complaining - not considering the full context of the evening, with Jerrett having reported pain earlier Wednesday that prompted his absence. He remains questionable for UA's game with Cal on Sunday.
And not with the other problems that developed Wednesday, when the Wildcats moved to 20-2 overall and 8-2 in the Pac-12 and snapped a three-game winning streak by Stanford (14-9, 5-5).
"Lot of positives tonight and you could make the case that it was one of the best wins we've had as a team," Miller said. "It was also one of 20. So we've had quite a few moments."
• What: California at No. 7 Arizona
• When: 5 p.m. Sunday
• TV; radio: Pac-12 Arizona; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)