Miller sees lesson in win

Arizona defeated NAU on Saturday night and Sean Miller learned plenty about his team. Read on to see what he learned, what he has to say about his players, and more.

By just looking at the score to Arizona's victory over Northern Arizona, it would appear that the Wildcats did not play a very good game. However, to head coach Sean Miller, there's more to the story than the result on the final scoreboard.

"It's a hard game to evaluate because Northern Arizona obviously held the ball for 40 minutes," Miller said. "It's a valuable teaching lesson for us because sometimes when you play against a team that puts you on defense that long, you can uncharacteristically take chances and become undisciplined.

"For some of our freshmen and really our team as a whole, I don't think anyone will play that way against us, but we do play against certain teams that are more deliberate than others. I think it's a lesson that you have to be disciplined, finish the possession off in the last 15 seconds, make sure a quick shot is a great shot, and really try to convert your shots into transition baskets."

Despite the victory, UA got off to another slow start against the Lumberjacks, a trend Miller would like to see reversed.

"I would love to be winning one time at the first media timeout, no coach wants to be down every game" Miller said. "We have to continue to look at our starting lineup and see who out of the five continues to not play well in the first four minutes and then we have to make a change. That's all part of coaching at Arizona right now, making sure that we have the five guys that deserve to walk out there."

Based on his performance on Saturday, Jordin Mayes may want to pick up his play for the team's brutal stretch of its schedule.

"Jordin did not play well today," Miller said. "I'm not the guy that says that they played well when they don't. That doesn't mean that he's not trying to play well or he hasn't played well in practice. By evidence that he's starting, we believe in him. No question, if he had played well today it would've really helped us."

Aside from a little criticism for Mayes, Miller was very pleased with the effort of some of his players, beginning with Kyle Fogg.

"Kyle Fogg to me is the story of the game because he had a 20 minutes where the ball couldn't go in," Miller said. "Yet he answered the bell in the first four minutes of the second half, like a senior, like a good shooter that he is. To me, we never really relinquished that cushion that he gave us. That's harder to do than you think, to put that first half behind you and make three consecutive threes."

Solomon Hill had another impressive game on Saturday with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, which led to praise from his coach after the game.

"Solomon is really developing as a player," Miller said. "He played very well today again, he had four offensive rebounds, and I think some of his offensive rebounds, like Kyle's threes, almost became the difference in the game. He does a lot of good things for us, but it's just important for him to stay humble, stay hungry, and keep working hard every day, that's what got him to where he is now.

"To me, this is nothing more than a good start. I feel like he can continue to get better as our season goes on. I think physically, he's more explosive, he runs faster, he's older. He's worked hard each of the seasons he's been here. The greatest compliment I can give Solomon is that he practices very hard every day. It's that practice every day that eventually starts to show up in games.

"As he becomes more comfortable with the role he has on this year's team, you can see he's becoming a very good player for us."

Even though he only logged 11 minutes off the bench, Miller was quick to point out the strides in Angelo Chol's game as his freshman season wears on.

"I would've liked to play Angelo a few more minutes," Miller said. "I think he played 10 minutes in the first half and only one in the second, and it was more a function of how the game went. Angelo has had two or three of his best practices at Arizona this week, and I think the more minutes the better, not only for him, but for our team.

"While he was in there today he had a couple of big blocked shots. A little like Kevin becoming healthier, Angelo's progress is slow and steady, but I do think it's slow and steady in a positive way."

Speaking of Kevin Parrom, who was limited to just 13 minutes of game action, Miller is doing his best to work the junior back at a manageable pace.

"It's just slow and steady with Kevin," Miller said. "Initially, if you would have said Kevin would be available for the NAU game, I would've said that was awesome. We were very fortunate and Kevin was too that we were able to put him out there earlier, but once the adrenaline and emotion of him returning left him, he was hit with reality. That is, he was shot, and at one point he had no feeling. We just hope that through his hard work and doctors continuing to see him that eventually he'll come around."

With the NAU game behind him, Miller has switched his focus to his team's next three games, which may be the most difficult stretch of the season for the Wildcats.

"Winning at Florida for every team in the country is difficult, we know that," Miller said. "Part of what we're doing with Florida is giving ourselves a chance to play a great team on their court. Clemson at home, which is going to be very physical, well-coached, and disciplined, today's pace and some of the things we dealt with today will be a reflection of that game.

"We're going to Seattle to play a very good program, so one can say anything about our non-conference schedule. I think we play an excellent schedule, it's both preparing us and giving us a lot of opportunities. Our goal is to keep getting better, both individually and collectively.

"I don't know personally if I've gone through a harder month than the one we just had. If you put the late October loss to Seattle Pacific and today's game against NAU, in a five week period, we've played 10 games that have gone down to the wire, and that takes its toll. It also takes its toll in a positive way, because you constantly learn more and more about your team. As we learn, we have to keep working to get better."


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