This post can also be found at pointguardu.com.
A puzzling Arizona season manifested itself in the closing moments of the Wildcats’ overtime win against Oregon State.
The scuffle was instigated by an aggressive and agitated Kyle Fogg who quickly backed off and disappeared from the melee. It was then propagated by Solomon Hill who demonstrated the most interest in the bout but was ultimately a non-factor. Others attempted to make their way into the shoving match, but were unable to make an impact. Then, when the dust settled, it was Kyryl Natyazhko who was ejected.
Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like the 44 minutes of basketball leading up to the events on the baseline? Perhaps the UCLA game? SDSU, Gonzaga, or Mississippi State?
Much has been made of this team’s lack of a go-to player and the Oregon State game confirmed that the 2011-12 Wildcats do not have one. There are some talented pieces to Sean Miller’s roster but no one individual can be consistently relied upon.
Perhaps this group is playing with the ghost of Derrick Williams; waiting for their knight in shining armor to bail them out of any and every circumstance. The vicious forward undoubtedly played the go-to role and it was going to be difficult to replace him regardless of how good Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, and the rest of the freshman class were. Attack was his default mode and it showed as he led an underwhelming Arizona team to the Elite Eight. And while having a go-to player is not imperative, it’s certainly an advantage and a pressure release for a team’s perhaps less talented players.
But Arizona’s victory confirmed another thing about these Wildcats: the sum can be greater than the parts.
On Thursday, it was Brendon Lavender, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the second half of the critical home win; supplementing the efforts of his teammates. Before that, Jordin Mayes, Jesse Perry, Hill, Fogg, and Johnson have each played the lead but not without significant other contributions. There certainly have been flashes of individual brilliance amongst this group, a positive indication that this team can do things.
But the ultimate success of this group will be their ability to overcome a lack of nightly individual output and play significant team basketball; particularly in a season featuring lineups centered by the 6’6” Kevin Parrom and absent of a scorer in the teens. The team ability and concept are there, the consistency is yet to come. Coach Miller called the Oregon State victory the “best game of the season.”
And at this critical juncture in the Wildcats’ season, the Wildcats could be gelling at just the right time.
With their toughest games yet to come, Arizona still controls their tournament destiny. To ensure they’re indeed dancing, the ‘Cats will have to continue to shake the ghost of Williams and continue to improve as a team. Growing on their “best game of the season.”
When Kyle Fogg chirped at Jared Cunningham and Solomon Hill jumped into the raucous and Kyryl Natyazkho was ejected, some individual faults may have been exposed. But look more closely and you’ll notice it was sixteen Wildcats the Beavers had to deal with.