The much-anticipated debut of the nation's No. 3-ranked recruiting class had mixed reviews, but No. 12 Arizona will seek to get more production Thursday when the Wildcats return to action.
For the first time in 17 years, the 'Cats and UTEP will meet in an 8 p.m. MST showdown at McKale Center.
UA (1-0) is coming off a nine-point win over Charleston Southern, which was able to give head coach Sean Miller's Wildcats some issues for most of the game before fading late. A team gifted with size - four UA players stand 6-8 or taller - had just a plus-6 advantage in the paint and lost the rebounding battle, 34-31.
Meanwhile, the team attempted 32 3-pointers while facing a zone defense that made it difficult to get the ball inside.
"It was tough, I thought we took what the defense gave," Miller said. "A few ill-advised shots. Usually you have more ill-advised shots in November than you do at any other time."
The freshmen starting frontcourt of 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski and 6-10 forward Grant Jerrett combined for just seven points and seven rebounds in their collegiate debuts. However, fellow first-year forward Brandon Ashley scored 12 of the reserves' 32 points and added eight boards, two blocks and a steal in his 24 minutes.
But because the 'Cats were able to produce 82 points and collect assists on 25 of 27 field goals while turning it over just eight times, Miller was satisfied with the offense. Defensively, however, the fourth-year head coach sees plenty of room for his young players to improve.
"We screwed a number of things up," Miller said. "A lot of times you do it in November and you hope that you can learn a lesson after a win."
But Miller added that this time of the year is still about teaching, particularly for a largely inexperienced group he expects to improve "by leaps and bounds" as the month goes along.
His veterans started slow, but Xavier transfer Mark Lyons found his shot falling in the second half en route to team highs of 17 points and six assists. Off the bench, senior Kevin Parrom chipped in six points, five rebounds and five assists while solving a matchup zone that befuddled the starters in the first half.
"He's really comfortable in there because Kevin's a physical player and he's a very good passer in there," Miller said. "As we went small he took that role and he really did an outstanding job."
Miller will see an old Pac-12 Conference foe on the other bench Thursday.
Ex-USC head coach Tim Floyd will try to build off last Friday's 20-point win over Oral Roberts. UTEP (1-0), which competes in Conference USA will also seek to reverse a trend of losses in 16 of its last 17 road games against ranked opponents.
Junior center John Bohannon led four Miners in double figures with 17 points in the opener. The team also made 11 steals and produced 22 points off turnovers.
Floyd - who once recruited Solomon Hill for the Trojans - remembers McKale as a tough environment.
"I know that the atmosphere will resemble what we see in our league (Conference USA) at Memphis," Floyd told the school's official team website. "Every person on the floor for us will be challenged at his position by one of the better talents in the country."
Arizona leads the all-time head-to-head series, 59-30, and won the last meeting against UTEP by 20 points during the 1995-96 season.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Click Here to view this Link.Tracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor