For Arizona's first two games of the season, Brandon Ashley might have been the most overqualified sub in the nation.
Not only did the freshman forward have McDonald's All-American high school cred, but he also averaged 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds off the bench in the Wildcats' victories over Charleston Southern and UTEP.
So maybe it was no surprise that when Ashley finally received his first career start in No. 10-ranked UA's 94-72 win over Long Beach State on Monday night - scooting fellow McDonald's All-American Grant Jerrett out of the lineup - he put up 20 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes.
It certainly was no surprise to UA coach Sean Miller, who clearly saw it coming.
Miller said Ashley had a practice on Saturday that was similarly dominant as his performance Monday at McKale Center, noting that he started Ashley against Long Beach State for his recent efforts in practice, not because of his previous two games.
"One of the things I'm really proud of with Brandon is he's learning how to practice harder," Miller said. "He's a much more consistent everyday player. He works harder than he ever has. He's very responsible. Very bright."
Even though he's just 18, Ashley is also seasoned. He played his senior season of high school ball at Findlay Prep, the high-level prep program near Las Vegas that also had Nick Johnson a year earlier, and is an alum of the well-regarded Oakland Soldiers travel-ball club.
Oh yeah, there were also those high school all-American games and months of Miller-led workouts.
So Monday night was a time, really, to go to work for the Wildcats (3-0).
"You just want to go into the game and you don't want to force anything," Ashley said. "But my teammates were looking for me, and they hit me in pretty good position to score and I didn't feel a need to force anything."
Ashley wasted no time making a difference Monday night. He collected a steal that led to a breakaway layup attempt early, being fouled and hitting two free throws for UA's first two points.
Ashley scored UA's first seven points overall, as the Wildcats took an 11-2 lead in a game in which they were never really challenged.
"I thought the first four minutes of the game he really set the tone for our team," Miller said.
Ashley's early dominance took the pressure off UA guard Mark Lyons, who struggled with just four points, three assists and four turnovers, as well as forward Solomon Hill, who was a limited factor in the first half.
Ashley was 6-for-6 from the field and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line while Hill hit all 11 free throws he took.
It also helped Arizona early that Nick Johnson scored all 12 of his points in the first half, after which UA took a 50-37 lead, while Kevin Parrom partially offset the 49ers' 14 three-pointers by going 5-for-5 from behind the line himself.
Hill, meanwhile, finished with 15 points, becoming the 47th UA player with 1,000 career points.
Together, the Wildcats hurt the 49ers both inside and out, and in transition.
Arizona shot 53.6 percent from the field and held a 32-16 scoring edge in the paint.
"By moving the ball, we were able to get the ball to the inside, and Brandon was able to get some rebounds and draw the fouls," Hill said.
"When you get a fast-paced team like Long Beach State, that's the type of style you want to play," Hill added, "it's easy to get points up on the board."
Miller said he believed it was the Wildcats' best effort yet at getting the ball inside, though he indicated there was plenty of room to grow.
Arizona will have time to keep doing that this week, since the Wildcats don't play again until Nov. 28 against NAU at McKale.
"We had some moments offensively and defensively in the first and second halves where I thought that might have been our best overall play of the season," Miller said.
"What we have to do now," he added, "if that was a 16-minute period of time, we have to grow that. Instead of 16, we have to make that 30 minutes and eventually have to be able to play 40 minutes.
"If we do, we have a chance to be a special team," the coach said. "That's what we're working toward."
On StarNet: See more photos from Monday's game at azstarnet.com/gallery and read the fan chat transcript of the game at live.azstarnet.com
• Who: NAU (1-2) at Arizona (3-0)
• When: 8 p.m., Nov. 28
• TV: Pac-12 Network
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM