Arizona was able to defeat Missouri on Monday night, but it wasn’t always easy.
“I thought Missouri really played extremely hard tonight (Monday), and for a large portion of the game really to me challenged us in a variety of ways, one of which is on the glass,” Sean Miller said.
“I think if we leave this game disappointed in anything, it's that they out-rebounded us 34-32, and I only say that because that's something we take a lot of pride in, and I think we have on our side, on our team, a lot of talent in that area.
Still Miller remains happy with the simple fact that the Wildcats won and will advance in the Maui Invitational.
“When you come to this tournament there is so much building towards the first game,” Miller said. “I think it's a tournament that is the biggest and the best. With that, that first game is always the most difficult.
“I think we feel good about the fact that we've won. There are a number of things that I know and I think we know we can do better. Rebounding is one of them. “
Monday’s game played out in similar fashion to the others Arizona has played this season in that the Wildcats started slowly and pulled away late.
“I talked a couple weeks ago about when you have a group of guys that have been in a lot of big games like we have, many times we should be like a fast starting team where you kind of see that confidence early on,” Miller said. “Man, I haven't seen it yet.
“That first four minutes there's been some times this season in our first four games we've been excellent on defense. There are times when I think we've executed really well and had some great shots that we haven't made.
“But that initial surge out of the gate, playing really well on both ends, I don't know if we've really done that yet, which I can also flip it and make that a positive because like every team at this time of year, you're in search of getting better and improving.”
T.J. McConnell went 2-11 from the field and Miller believes that his shooting woes are mental last this point.
“T.J. is our heart and soul in many ways, one of our leaders and somebody that does it on both ends,” Miller said. “He doesn't necessarily have to shoot the ball well to play well. He impacted today's game in a big way, but he's really become mental at this point shooting the basketball, and he's making too much of it.
“He just has to relax, take the shots that present themselves, and, like I've said statistically, I have more confidence in him than maybe any single player on our team from three.
“It's just a matter of him not making it bigger than it needs to be. We've all been there before as shooters where it just doesn't feel right. He just needs one to go down. Hopefully that will be tomorrow, but he can play an excellent game and not be a bigger scorer for us.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did not start against Missouri, but he played a considerable amount and saw the court to start the second half.
“Well, it was a reward for Rondae,” Miller said. “It's not as if we're not starting Rondae because he's not one of our five best players. I think what we've decided on a chemistry perspective and maybe getting more balance on offense, that not starting him gives us that energy that everyone loves to have off the bench, and maybe balances out, complements the starting group a little bit better.
“Every once in a while you could certainly see that we'd want to start him in the second half. He had some foul problems as well, and it's important that we give him enough minutes because right now no one on our team is playing better than Rondae.
“He’s been the most consistent player from start to finish in all four games. I would say Brandon Ashley and him, those two guys have been the most consistent on our end.”
When asked if Miller would start the same lineup against Kansas State, he was quick to shoot down the meaning of who starts.
“You can ask me the same question every game and you can ask me at halftime and after the game, tomorrow you can ask me it again, I'm going to give you the same answer,” Miller said.
“If you want to make a huge deal of who starts, you can keep doing it, but it's more about who plays well. I've already gone on record once, five, ten, fifteen times that the reason we're not starting Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has nothing to do with anything he does.
“He's clearly a very, very talented player. We just feel that him entering the game at the 17-minute mark helps us be the best team we can be. Now having answered that, I'll answer it again tomorrow, if you want. But I would say that we'll probably start the same lineup tomorrow that we started today.”