After Solomon Hill hit a jumper with 1:28 remaining in the first half to pull No. 9 Arizona to within five of Colorado, the Wildcats went more than four minutes without a point. The Buffaloes took advantage, pushing their lead out to 15, giving Colorado the cushion needed to beat Arizona 71-58.
Sean Miller’s team has lost two straight games, and while the performances of Cal’s backcourt on Sunday and Spencer Dinwiddie on Thursday night get the headlines Arizona’s play on the offensive end is the bigger concern when thinking long-term.
Hill finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds but shot 5-of-14 from the field with 11 of the shot attempts being jumpers of varying distances (1-of-6 3PT), and Mark Lyons added 11 points and four assists on 4-of-10 shooting.
As a team Arizona shot 5-of-19 from beyond the arc and averaged just under a point per possession (0.93), with both numbers being a far cry from their season averages entering Thursday’s game (36.3% 3PT; 1.09 points/possession). And while some will use this as an opportunity to lament Arizona’s lack of a “true” point guard the lack of a player who can consistently get them points in the paint is a more glaring issue.
Angelo Chol accounted for eight points and four rebounds off the bench, but what little he generates offensively comes by way of dump-offs from penetrating guards more often than not and the same can be said for Kaleb Tarczewski. Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett are both skilled offensively but neither is at the stage where they’d be a focal point of opposing teams’ scouting reports.
For that reason players such as Hill, Lyons and Nick Johnson are asked to generate much of Arizona’s offense from the perimeter. All capable of getting into the paint off the dribble, they don’t enjoy the same driving lanes to the basket when the three-pointers aren’t falling.
Arizona won’t panic following Thursday’s result nor should they. But if the Wildcats are to win the Pac-12 and be successful in March the offensive issues need to be fixed, beginning with their game at Utah this weekend.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.