Arizona showed its fair share of offensive struggles against Cal, but Sean Miller was fast to emphasize that more aggressive play within the conference schedule and lack of experience was a major factor.
“We brought quite a few guys into tonight that have never played a conference game,” Miller said. “The intensity, familiarity and size around the basket was something that we struggled with. You see it non-conference but only in certain spots.
“In the Pac-12 you’re looking at it game in and game out. I think for us to play through some of that in the first half and be able to leave with a win is something to be excited about.
“We played through a tough stretch and hung in there. Getting to halftime and only being down six was a win for us because we could have been down more. We didn’t play well. We were stuck on six points forever, missing lay ups and quite frankly I thought we had some defensive breakdowns that weren’t helpful to us as well.”
Kobi Simmons was a major contributor down the stretch, finishing with 14 points and six field goals that positioned Arizona on a commanding 9-0 to open up the second half, which ended up being the difference in the game.
“We really played more of a complete game in the second half,” Miller said. “I have to give Kobi Simmons a lot of credit. Part of why we won is because he set the tone for our team in the first eight to 10 minutes of the second half.
“His six field goals came all around that time and the baskets he got we’re really big for our team. His performance gave us a renewed sense of confidence and as you all know, he has the talent to do that.”
Parker Jackson-Cartwright returned to the lineup for the first time in six games and while the junior only finished with two points in 20 minutes of total action, Miller knows his presence on the court is crucial to Arizona’s success moving forward.
“We would not have won if Parker didn’t play,” he said. “Just the fact that he could play 20 minutes helped us so much. Kadeem ending up cramping throughout the game and imagine what would have happened if Parker couldn’t have played. He is our most important player.”