The talk of the Arizona offseason was about the much-needed size that the nation's third-ranked recruiting class would give head coach Sean Miller.
A team that started a 6-6 center last season was now about to receive a true, 7-foot center in Kaleb Tarczewski. The Claremont, N.H., had yet to leave a significant imprint on a game through the season's first two games, however.
That changed as No. 10 Arizona cruised past Long Beach State for a 94-72 victory Monday night in front of 13,382 at McKale Center. The Wildcats (3-0) have now opened with three consecutive wins for a third straight season.
The 49ers (1-3), who were dominated on the boards, 41-23, were dealt their third straight loss.
In the first start of his collegiate career, freshman Brandon Ashley responded with a double-double for Arizona, which shot 53.6 percent (30 of 56) and finished with four double-figure scorers. Starting over Grant Jerrett, the 6-8 forward scored a game-high 20 points and collected 10 rebounds.
"Brandon Ashley was the best player on the court for us," Miller said. "We started him tonight not because of anything Grant did because he's rock solid, but as a reward to Brandon. He's practiced very well."
Senior Solomon Hill added 15 points, six rebounds and four assists, and his free throws with 4:20 remaining made him the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 career points. Off the bench, Kevin Parrom added a perfect 5-of-5 night from the 3-point line to finish with 15 points.
Arizona led 50-37 at the break and the 'Niners were able to hang around early in the second half.
With 15:27 to play, James Ennis had a chance to cut the deficit to 11 and swing some of the momentum. But the athletic forward was unable to catch the pass on an outlet cleanly, and his layup attempt was swatted away by Tarczewski.
The 7-footer's block sparked an 8-0 run, turning a modest lead into a 21-point advantage after an Ashley layup, Parrom 3 and Hill's traditional 3-point play.
Tarczewski's play also was the start of a productive defensive stretch for the freshman, who finished with five rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
With 6:41 to play, Ashley put an exclamation point on the game with a basket to put the Wildcats ahead by 30, and UA cruised the rest of the way.
"You don't want to go into the game and force anything," said Ashley, who converted all six of his field goals and 8 of 9 free throws. "My teammates were looking for me and they put me in a great position to score."
Ennis paced the 49ers with 17 points and seven rebounds but did not start. The 6-7 wing was bothered by leg cramps late against North Carolina last Friday and came off the bench. In his place, Peter Pappageorge added 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting - all from 3-point range.
Point guard Michael Caffey, who came into the game as the team's second-leading scorer, was limited to just three points on 1-of-7 shooting and seven assists. The sophomore did not score until a 3-pointer with 5:09 to play.
"I think (Arizona guard) Mark Lyons affected us, especially," LBSU head coach Dan Monson said. "I thought Mike Caffey did a good job on Mark, but I thought we really struggled without Mike. We were down one point guard and he made it difficult for him."
Arizona was hot from the beginning, opening the game on a 9-2 run capped by a Lyons to Nick Johnson alley-oop inside the first 3 minutes.
The Wildcats, who shot 63 percent from the field in the half, led by as many as 22 with 6 1/2 mins to go before halftime and used their size against the athletic, but thin 49ers.
LBSU eventually found its rhythm and used an 11-2 spurt to pull within 39-27 with 5:16 to play. UA's solid defensive start was marred by eight first-half turnovers to allow the 'Niners into the game.
In addition, the 49ers connected on half of their 14 3-pointers before the break to help turn an otherwise rough half into a 13-point deficit going into the locker room.
"We're giving up way too many," Miller said. "We need to fix that."
The Wildcats will now have nine days between their return to the court next Wednesday against Northern Arizona.
Click Here to view this Link.Tracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor