Sean Miller

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Balanced effort pushes Arizona past No. 7 Texas A&M

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Having struggled in non-conference play, most notably going 0-3 at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Arizona needed a quality win for its non-conference profile. The Wildcats picked up that win Tuesday night, as they beat seventh-ranked Texas A&M 67-64 at the Valley of the Sun Shootout in Phoenix. DeAndre Ayton, Brandon Randolph, Dusan Ristic and Dylan Smith led the way offensively for the Wildcats, scoring 13 points apiece, with Ayton adding ten rebounds.

Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis led all scorers with 21, but it wasn’t enough as the Aggies suffered their first loss of the season. Here are three takeaways from Arizona’s win over Texas A&M.

1. Arizona won despite an off night from Allonzo Trier.

The junior guard entered Tuesday’s game averaging 23.9 points per game, shooting 57.1 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three and 78.0 percent from the foul line. Texas A&M managed to neutralize Trier, as he was just 2-for-7 from the field and finished the night with seven points to go along with three rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. Given Arizona’s struggles to get consistent offense from players other than Trier or Ayton in games against quality competition, the Wildcats finding a way to win despite the team’s leading scorer having an off night is a positive development.

In addition to Smith, who scored in double figures for the first time as a Wildcat, Randolph reached double figures for the third time in the last four games. Randolph, a part of Arizona’s highly regarded recruiting class, scored a total of six points in Arizona’s first four games. There’s still a lot to be improved upon, but grinding out a win despite Trier going cold is a positive for the Wildcats.

2. Tyler Davis may not be as high on draft boards as Robert Williams III, but he’s a tough cover for just about any front court.

Tuesday’s matchup between Williams and DeAndre Ayton was the one many NBA Draft types were looking forward to, as both have the potential to be lottery picks in June. But there’s something to be said for a veteran big man as well, with Tyler Davis being the one player Arizona did not seem to have an answer for defensively. Davis made nine of his 12 field goal attempts, doing much of his work on the low block.

Whether it was Ayton, Dusan Ristic or any other big man, Arizona could not do much to put Davis in situations where he would struggle to get a quality look at the basket. With Williams still being a work in progress when it comes to his offensive skill set, having a big man who can consistently produce offense on the low block will certainly help Texas A&M in its quest to win the SEC.

3. Arizona needs to be a bit more judicious with its shot selection.

Entering Tuesday’s game 31.9 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, a mark that ranked 280th in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Against Texas A&M the Wildcats attempted 22 three-pointers, making seven, with nearly 47 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. And outside of Dylan Smith, who made all three of his three-pointers, Arizona combined to shoot 4-for-19 from three.

Texas A&M’s front court can make it difficult on opposing teams when it comes to finding quality looks around the basket, but there were also instances in which Arizona settled for perimeter shots. The eventual return of Rawle Alkins should help with this, but there’s also no excuse for six of Allonzo Trier’s seven shot attempts being three-pointers.

If Arizona is to reach the expectations set for them before the season began, they’ve got room to grow on both ends of the floor. That being said, building on Saturday’s win over UNLV with this quality result should help the Wildcats moving forward.

Arizona rolls over Long Beach State 91-56

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Sean Miller sat down after his team shot 60 percent in a 35-point win and talked about what was missing.

For nearly 25 minutes, the Arizona coach kept hitting the same point: Effort, particularly on the defensive end.

The Wildcats don’t have it, at least consistently, and it’s gnawing at Miller, even after a 91-56 rout over Long Beach State on Wednesday night.

“We really struggled to play with great effort and I don’t think we’re going to be very successful until that’s fixed,” Miller said. “We’re a lifeless group a lot of times.”

Arizona (4-3) dropped out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2012 following a 0-for-3 trip to the Bahamas. The Wildcats looked much more comfortable back at the McKale Center, shooting 60 percent and making 12 of 22 from 3-point range to win their 44th straight non-conference home game. Allonzo Trier scored 15 points, Deandre Ayton added 13 and six players scored in double figures.

Defensively, they were not as Miller had hoped, particularly after harping on it in practice.

“Disappointed just watching our team where we’re at,” he said. “We’ve had our moments over the last six, seven years where you watch a group, but I don’t know if I’ve seen a group that can’t bring it, can’t work, can’t really fight defensively. Man, is it disappointing.”

Long Beach State coach Dan Monson likes to schedule tough opponents to build the 49ers’ RPI and this season has been no different.

The 49ers (3-5) have already faced Oregon State, West Virginia, Missouri, and Nebraska, with a game against No. 3 Michigan State still to come.

Long Beach State won one of those games — against Oregon State on Nov. 24 — but was never really in it against the big, athletic Wildcats, falling into a 23-point hole in the first half on the way to a blowout loss.

Bryan Alberts led the 49ers with 12 points.

“We were out-manned,” Monson said. “It was not smart scheduling on my part because this is our sixth game on the road in 13 days.”

Arizona needed a bounce back from a lost week in the Bahamas. The Wildcats went into the Battle 4 Atlantis undefeated and ranked No. 2. They came home winless in three games and dropped all the way out of the rankings on Monday, becoming the first team since Louisville in 1986 to drop out of the AP Top 25 from the No. 2 spot.

The big issue: Defense.

Arizona allowed 89 points twice in the three games in the Bahamas and is allowing nearly 75 points per game, high numbers for a Sean Miller-coached team.

The Wildcats were good defensively back at home, contesting shots and jumping into passing lanes while holding the 49ers to 10-of-27 shooting in the first half.

On offense, the Wildcats gave Long Beach State a heavy dose of Ayton early, repeatedly feeding it to the 7-foot-1, 260-pound freshman in the high and low post. Ayton scored six quick points and was good at recognizing double teams, working the ball out to open shooters.

Ayton had 10 points and eight rebounds by halftime, helping Arizona to a 42-24 lead.

The 49ers used a short run to cut Arizona’s lead to 13 early in the second half, but the Wildcats ran away with a series of fast breaks and 3-pointers.

“We got it down to 13, but turned it over three straight times,” Monson said. “We just have to stay together and battle a little bit more as we grow as a team.”

NUMBERS

Long Beach State shoots 71 percent from the free-throw line, but went 8 for 17 against Arizona. … The Wildcats had a 38-24 advantage in the paint and nine more rebounds. … The 49ers had 19 turnovers that led to 27 points for Arizona. … Parker Jackson-Cartwright ran Arizona’s offense efficiently, as usual, finishing with 12 points, five assists and one turnover.

BIG PICTURE

Long Beach State was overmatched by the oversized Wildcats, but these tough early-season tests should help them once the Big West season rolls around.

Though the opponent was from a small conference, Arizona appears to be headed back in the right direction on offense. Defensively, they have a lot of room for improvement, according to their coach.

UP NEXT

Long Beach State hosts Fresno State on Saturday.

Arizona plays at UNLV on Saturday.

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More college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

VIDEO: Bobby Hurley ejected as No. 8 Arizona knocks off Arizona State

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Gabe York went for 22 points and six assists and Allonzo Trier added 20 points as No. 8 Arizona went into Tempe and knocked off Arizona State, 94-82.

Arizona State has not exactly been a powerhouse in recent years, but this is a nice win for the Wildcats nonetheless. The Sun Devils have beaten Texas A&M in their arena and went up to Las Vegas and knocked off UNLV last month. They’re a scrappy team that really competes, the embodiment of their head coach, Bobby Hurley.

And that sure was evident down the stretch, as Arizona State cut a 16-point Arizona lead to as close as six in the final two minutes before Hurley picked up a pair of technical fouls and got himself ejected.

He was unhappy, to say the least:

With the way that Sean Miller has Arizona rolling and Hurley now stalking the sidelines in Tempe, it’s safe to say that this rivalry is going to kick into high gear. Let’s go beyond the fact that both have proven to be excellent coaches — it’s always more exciting when both sides of a rivalry are good — but I’m not sure there are two coaches in the country that are more competitive and animated on the sidelines.

As far as this game was concerned, Arizona seems to once again be the favorite to win the Pac-12. It’s not the kind of Arizona team that we’re used to seeing, meaning that this group doesn’t have a star or a ton of NBA talent, but they do have a core of veterans that understand what their role is and a number of guys that can step up in a given game.

Was there really any doubt that Miller was going to find a way to make this team competitive?