Sean Miller was a bit worried about how Arizona would bounce back from a difficult loss against Providence, but he was happy with the results.
“I give our team a lot of credit today,” Miller said Sunday. “Any time that you are in this type of tournament and you lose a hard fought game like we did against Providence, usually the next game you are still dealing with the effects of the loss.
“Our guys did a great job of putting that game behind us and played hard. Boise is an incredible offensive team and we respect them a great deal. The fact that we already knew how skilled they were probably helped us tonight.”
For a team that has struggled with defense, Sunday was a step in the right direction.
“This was our best defensive performance of the year,” Miller said. “On a night when you aren’t perfect on offense and we are already shorthanded without Kaleb, we had some guys really step up, especially on defense.
“Kadeem and Elliott Pitts played bigger than their height. Mark is as versatile of a defender as we have ever had. That really anchored a lot of tonight’s performance.
“We will take it, we are 6-1, we are not where we would have been at this time last year but that is to be expected with so many new faces and new roles.”
Offensively, Allonzo Trier tied a team-high with 13 points and only missed one shot.
“There is a lot of pressure on high profile freshman when they come in because the expectations of a high school all-American are to come in and hit the ground running,” Miller said. “Each of these guys is different.
“Stanley Johnson didn’t come into his own until we got to Maui, and truth be told he had one good game in Maui. It wasn’t until we got into conference play that he really hit his stride. That’s an example of somebody who is one heck of a talent.
“Allonzo continues to get better, he works really hard and gets at it every day. There is nobody on our team who invests more into becoming a better player than Allonzo. Allowing him to play through mistakes is a good thing and he gave us some firepower tonight that we needed.”
In addition to Trier having to learn, Miller continues to challenge his players with learning different defensive positions.
“Kadeem is playing two positions and we really talked with him about being a lockdown defender,” Miller said. “He has tremendous talent defensively and he is learning our system.
“There is a difference between being a one and a two and he is becoming more comfortable and growing as a player. Tonight might have been his best game he has played at Arizona.
“We have had to bounce Mark around like a ping-pong ball. We have asked him to learn three different positions. He played the 5, the 4 and the 3 for us tonight. Every time that he goes out there he learns. These guys are both on the right track.”