Cats Start Miller Era With Victory
Nov. 15, 2009
TUCSON--The Sean Miller era at Arizona began with a decent note as Arizona beat in-state rival Northern Arizona (1-1), 87-70, Sunday afternoon in McKale Center.
UA squandered a 23-point second-half lead, however, and watched its shooting cool while the Lumberjacks heated up in the late going.
Miller became the fourth consecutive UA head coach to open with a victory after Lute Olson, Kevin O'Neill and Russ Pennell pulled it off in stints since 1984. The victory made Arizona 22-4 in the last 26 season openers, home or away.
Wildcat freshman forward Solomon Hill led the Cats with 17 points and senior guard added 15 points. NAU guard Cameron Jones posted a game-high 29.
Arizona's depth was evident with Jamelle Horne posting a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Kyle Fogg chipping in 10 points. Four other Cats had eight or more points, while NAU's Gabe Rogers added 11.
The Jacks, who trailed by as much as 23 in the period, cut the lead to 13 at 77-64 with an 13-6 run in a four-minute span from the 7-minute mark onward.
Arizona improved to 92-27 against NAU.
The Cats started Wise, junior forward Horne, sophomore guard Brendon Lavender and freshmen Kyryl Natyazhko inside and Lamont Jones outside. Miller's bench rotation included Fogg, Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill and Garland Judkins, with UA's fifth freshman, Kevin Parrom, sidelined with a sore foot.
UA shot 58 percent in the first half but cooled in the second to finish at .484 while holding NAU to a similar .429 from the field. The Cats outrebounded the Lumberjacks by a 40-32 margin with Hill grabbing eight and Natyazhko adding seven in their collegiate debuts.
The Cats, who had a 20-point lead at the break, came out fast in the second half with two quick buckets to force NAU Coach Mike Adras to call a quick timeout trailing 55-31. The Jacks responded with a 4-0 run before Wise answered for UA.
The Cats seemed content with jump shots, however, while NAU worked it around and whittled the lead to 19 with an 11-6 run in the first five minutes of the half. More of the same and a 6-0 run cut the lead to 16 before Horne knocked down a jumper to make it 71-53.
Arizona never trailed in the first half but didn't immediately pull away from the Lumberjacks because of good jump shooting by guard Jones, who had seven points in the first eight minutes.
Nic Wise was operating in the open court and inside for Arizona with short-range jumpers, a three-pointer and a drive to the basket that lifted Arizona to a 21-11 lead at the 10-minute mark.
Horne had consecutive baskets for UA to push the Cats up by a dozen, and then blocked a shot that Hill rebounded and took the length of the court for a layup and 29-15 lead with eight minutes left in the half.
Three-pointers by Lavender and Fogg extended UA's lead to 16 before a trey by Jones made it 41-38, but Natyazhko had a put-back and Lavender knocked down another long-range shot to give UA an 18-point lead, 46-28, with three minutes left. Hill added a free throw and a layup to extend the lead to 21, 49-28, after an 8-0 run.
Fogg drove to the bucket to make it a 10-0 run before Eric Platt's twisting drive snapped the drought with an old-fashioned three-pointer and make it a 20-point lead at 51-31 at the half.
UA had balanced scoring from eight players to outweight Jones' 14 first-half markers and six points from center Josh Lepley.