No. 12 Arizona starts strong with 79-61 victory over Pacific
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Late in a lopsided game, Arizona coach Sean Miller opted to put nearly all of his young players in at the same time. The Wildcats have a rapid-fire opening schedule and he wanted to give the starters a chance to rest, along with get some playing time for those young guys.
When the lead started to dwindle, Miller put his starters back in and vowed to never make the same mistake again.
Ryan Anderson and Kadeem Allen had strong debuts with Arizona, but the 12th-ranked Wildcats played disjointedly before Miller put the starters back in to close out a 79-61 victory over Pacific on Friday night.
''I will never do that again; you will never see that group again in the next 37 games,'' Miller said. ''We'll inch it closer to the finish and we'll learn every day in practice, but they're not going to learn in a game like that because there's too much at stake.''
Miller shuffled his lineup around all night in an effort to determine which combinations work well on this rejiggered team. The Wildcats built the lead to 28 points behind their starters, so Miller decided to give the youngsters a chance.
But with Pacific whittling down the lead, Miller threw up his hands and put his starters back in to make sure Pacific didn't make it closer than it needed to be.
Though the Tigers weren't likely to make it all the way back - there was about 90 seconds left - the message was sent.
''Obviously, when you start having subs, it's not the same gelling team that we had at the beginning,'' said Arizona senior guard Gabe York, who had 13 points. ''It's not a matter of us letting up, it's just different basketball players out on the court.''
The slipup at the end partially spoiled what had been a stellar game to that point.
Anderson, a transfer from Boston College, proved to be a handful for the Tigers inside, scoring 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting while grabbing 12 rebounds.
Allen was sharp in his first game as Arizona's starting point guard, finishing with 13 points, five assists, four rebounds and one turnover.
The win was the Wildcats' 39th straight at home - 25 straight in non-conference - and improved them to 8-0 in season openers under Miller.
T.J. Wallace had 19 points and eight rebounds to lead Pacific, which shot 36 percent.
''It's a great college atmosphere, probably one of the best on the West Coast,'' Pacific coach Ron Verlin said. ''We enjoyed the competition tonight.''
Arizona went to its second straight Elite Eight last season, but lost Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, T.J. McConnell and Brandon Ashley from that team.
The Wildcats still have the sharpshooting York, 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski and point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright to go with a talented group of new players, making them again the favorites in the Pac-12.
York and Allen were the catalysts early against Pacific.
A streaky shooter who had some big games last season, York was aggressive to start his senior season, confidently stroking in 3-pointers and driving hard to the basket. He had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting by halftime.
Allen, the 2013-14 national JUCO player of the year, had no trouble getting into the lane, leading to easy baskets for himself or teammates. He had nine points and four assists, setting up Mark Tollefson along the baseline for a layup in the closing seconds of the first half to put Arizona up 41-24.
Pacific had trouble with Arizona's length and athleticism on defense, hitting 7 of 27 shots in the first half, including 1 of 10 from 3-point range.
Heralded Arizona freshman Allonzo Trier did not have a memorable shooting night in his debut. The shooting guard came off the bench and couldn't get much to fall from anywhere, finishing with eight points on 1-of-10 shooting. ''He's a young player and this was the first game of his career and I'm sure there's going to be plenty of great games in his future,'' Miller said.
Pacific: The Tigers are 0-5 all-time against Pac-12 opponents.
Arizona: Junior G Elliott Pitts sprained his knee in practice this week and did not play. ... The Wildcats included former player Michael Wright in their pregame video. The 35-year-old was found dead with a head wound in New York on Tuesday, ruled a homicide by police.
Pacific hosts Cal State-Fullerton on Tuesday.
Arizona hosts Bradley on Monday.