Arizona hasn’t been on public display for a week now but that hasn’t prompted Brandon Ashley to turn it off.
UA coach Sean Miller said in his weekly news conference today that Ashley has continued to play well in practices this week after a 20-point, 10-rebound performance on Nov. 19 against Long Beach State.
“Brandon Ashley right now has really established himself as being on the upswing,” Miller said. “You guys see it in games; we see it every day in practice. He led our team in practice points leading up to the (Long Beach State) game and even this past week he’s continued to do a good job.
“He’s played with a lot of confidence. He’s learning how to play with more effort and he’s getting better on both ends of the ball. It’s exciting to see somebody as young as he is improve through his work ethic.”
Not surprisingly, Miller said he would probably start Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski in the post again Wednesday against NAU.
“That’s not a slight to Grant (Jerrett) at all. Let me be very forthright with that,” Miller said. “I wish all of them could start because I think I was pretty direct in that Grant, through the month of October, really stood out among our frontcourt players as the best one, and there were a lot of practices that we took to formulate that decision. It’s not as if he’s not practiced well but Brandon is and he’s continuing to do well.”
“There may come a time, maybe as soon as the next game, that we start a different lineup. I’ve talked about rotating those guys. But even as we rotate who starts I think their roles are very similar.”
Unprompted, Miller showered some attention during his news conference on sophomore guard Nick Johnson, who is averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 assists so far. Johnson has 13 assists to three turnovers, joining Kevin Parrom (10-2) with the top assist-turnover ratios on the team so far.
“Nick Johnson isn’t talked about a lot because he’s no longer a freshman and a lot of the November conversations surround the newcomers or the older players, but Nick is doing a great job for our team,” Miller said. “If you look at his assist-turnover ratio, it’s almost as if we have two point guards on our team at one time. He really has gone out of his way to make his teammates better. He’s very unselfish.
“Defensively, he’s playing better than anytime he did as a freshmen and he’s a real key to our team. If you watch us play, a lot of times the guy who seems to be orchestrating for other players is Nick and I think his role may not show up with a 20-point night but he’s very comprehensive in playing well right now and it’s very important that he stays consistent with everything he’s done so far all the way through the season.”
Coming off their long break, the Wildcats will face rebuilding programs in NAU and Texas Tech this week. But with Miller emphasizing Arizona’s issues in defending three-point shots – and NAU has good shooters in Gabe Rogers and DeWayne Russell – the Wildcats may stay focused.
“It’s one of the things we’ve worked really hard on,” Miller said of UA’s three-point percentage defense. “Anytime when you have a period of time when you don’t have many games it can be beneficial if handled right. It can not be beneficial if guys wish they were playing in games and are not practicing well but we have practiced well.”
The Wildcats moved to No. 9 in both the AP media poll and the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. Colorado moved up to No. 19 in both polls, while UCLA fell to 24 in the coaches' poll and completely out of the AP poll.
Josh Pastner is receiving some heat in Memphis, after the Tigers' poor showing in the Bahamas.
USC lost its poise after erasing a 19-point deficit in a loss to San Diego State.
Shabazz Muhammad says UCLA has to "learn how to jell" after the Bruins lost to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.