Arizona substituted earlier and more often Saturday in its win over Washington State, but it wasn’t because Sean Miller was testing the rotation or trying to get the reserves more playing time.
Miller said it was actually Mark Lyons who did the substituting, pulling himself out early because he was battling an illness. UA went with Jordin Mayes early at point guard in his place, rather than have Nick Johnson handle the point.
“I think he has a stomach flu,” Miller said. “We thought he would be OK early. He subbed himself out and then we figured it out.”
Miller said Lyons started feeling ill this morning but not at the level that Johnson was three weeks ago at Washington State. As it turned out, Lyons’ illness was not visible in his play – he had 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting and four assists to one turnover.
Lyons also benefited from a surprising assist – hitting an early second-half three pointer on a dish from Kaleb Tarczewski, who entered the game with seven assists this season but none in Pac-12 games.
Tarczewski also fed Johnson for a three late in the game, while totaling 12 points and six rebounds, continuing his streak of strong efforts.
“In practice about a month ago, a couple of weeks ago in games, (Tarczewski’s improvement) really started to show,” Miller said. “If you’re watching us on film, that’s one of the things that you’re worried about because he’s more sure of himself. We’re getting the ball to him and he had a couple of good passes as well. He works so hard every day that it’s just a matter of time before he finds it.”
Tarczewski said he’s been gaining confidence as the season progresses.
“At the beginning of the season, I was struggling to find my way, but the team’s been doing a great job of finding me and getting me the ball,” Tarczewski said. “That’s been helping me with my confidence and I’m starting to find myself.”
With the exception of Kevin Parrom’s three-pointers, UA struggled against a zone again, in the second half against the Cougars.
“They went to a zone. We got scared a little bit. Didn’t move,” Miller said. “A couple guys were wide open; didn’t want to shot. A couple of guys missed some shots, and started to get that feeling like `oh oh.'
"Conversely, when that happens, you gotta keep stringing together defensive stops and once you do, you get a steal or a blocked shot that will ignite a three point shot or a 2-on-1 and it has nothing to do with your offense. It has everything to do with your defense.”
Unhappy throughout his postgame news conference – except when discussing Tarczewski and Parrom – Miller began to wrap it up with the following:
“I’m really excited that we’re 23-4 and I could have given you all the, `Hey, we played great…’ " Miller said. "But I think with what we’re trying to accomplish moving forward -- I’m talking about games 28 and beyond -- we’re in a real quandary. We do not play hard on defense.”
Without using Brandon Ashley's name, Miller expressed disappointment in the freshman forward, who fouled out after 16 minutes. Ashley had seven points and three rebounds.
"Our lack of intensity, attention to detail and focus..." Miller said. "We got guys fouling out on almost four or five plays? It’s really hard to foul out in college basketball unless you’re playing 37, 38 minutes in a ferocious game.
"You’re playing 16 minutes and you have five fouls? That’s the officials' fault? ... again I always tell the truth and for our team to perform like we did against Washington State it’s not disappointment. It's a sign of where we are."
Here’s the official box score.