'Mid-day Madness: Muhlbach lights it up

No Midnight Madness, no problem. The Arizona basketball team chose to forgo the usual midnight start of the season and went with a more traditional scrimmage. There may have been no dunk contest or celebrity host, but 4,800 fans left the first practice of the year very happy.

"I was impressed," said fan Mark Berard, who brought several players from the youth basketball team he coaches. "It's not as exciting (as Midnight Madness). There's no build up with the announcers. There's no way that I would have brought eight and nine year old boys to Midnight Madness."

The scrimmage and following autograph session may have lacked the pageantry of Midnight Madness, but none of the on-court thrills. There was plenty of scoring and a number of highlight reel plays to entertain the energetic crowd.

The score of the scrimmage was secondary really, but for the record the White team won the first half 59-49 and then after a few trades, won the second, abbreviated half 46-33.

Realistically it was nothing more than a well organized pick-up game. Even with the referees and coaches guiding the action, play was sloppy and there was little defense to be seen. The coaches kept things somewhat structured and offered advice, but the action was freewheeling and up-tempo.

Things will change when the team begins their regular practice schedule.

"They've been saying that they couldn't wait to get to practice," Lute Olson said of his team. "They've been anxious for this to start. I think we'll have a good, solid week next week."

The big star, at least on the offensive end, was recruited walk-on Beau Muhlbach. The freshman from Lufkin, TX unofficially led all scorers. Taking advantage of wide-open shots and fast break opportunities, Muhlbach scored 23 in the first half and 15 in the second. Muhlbach found himself left alone on the outside on numerous occasions and let straying defenders pay by burying the bulk of his three-point attempts. Muhlbach seems to have a sense for where the ball is and comes up with big rebounds and loose balls, which lead to easy scoring chances.

"I like him," assistant head coach Jim Rosborough said of Muhlbach. "I like his play. He was one of the best kids on the floor."

Offense was the rule of the day. Nine players scored in double figures, with Matt Brasse the only starter not to eclipse the ten-point mark.

Andre Iguodala continued to amaze. He wasn't as accurate from behind the three-point line as he had been in pick-up, but there is not doubt that he is a much-improved shooter. His athleticism is amazing and he attacks the hoop. He played a few minutes at the four and will never remind anyone of Michael Wright, but he's aggressive and his athleticism is a valuable asset on the boards.

Chris Rodgers and Hassan Adams teamed on a pair of first half alley-oops that got the crowd out of their seats. The second lob pass gave the blue team an early 15-14 lead. Like his buddy Iguodala, Adams appears to have improved his jump shot and is easily one of the most explosive players to ever don an Arizona uniform.

Midway through the first half the fans turned their attention away from the on-field activities to court Shaun Livingston, the nation's top point guard recruit. Livingston, who is making his official visit this weekend, was clad in an Arizona jersey and seemed almost embarrassed when the crowd began chanting "we want Shaun" on two occasions.

The White team pulled away around the 6:00 mark and coasted to the first half win. Muhlbach hit back-to-back three's which put his club up 47-39. Another three and an alley-oop slam by Iguodala made it 55-40.

Salim Stoudamire capped the scoring when he ran down the clock before banking home a three pointer with two seconds left in the half.

The coaches swapped a few players around and the blue team took advantage to start the shortened second half. Mustafa Shakur was one of the players to swap teams and he sparked his team to a 5-0 run to start the half, but it wouldn't last.

The white pulled away in the final four minutes, thanks in large part to Iguodala and Muhlbach who kept up their torrid scoring pace.

NOTES:

*The post players did not strut their stuff and were inconsistent. Isaiah Fox looked better than he did in the previous day's pick-up. Channing Frye was not able to establish himself as a dominant scoring threat, but a large part of that was the incredible play of the perimeter players.

*The Wildcat players signed autographs for 45 minutes afterwards and very few of the 4,800 in attendance left before getting something signed.

*Livingston and fellow recruit Jawann McClellan stayed around and signed autographs as well.

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