McKale

It was the best of times, followed by the worst of times for the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night.

The Wildcats (10-4, 1-0), used an explosive first half and suffocating defense to thwart the Colorado Buffaloes in the team's Pac-12 opener, 64-56.

Freshman guard Brandon Williams led all scorers from the home side with 14 points, dishing out 6 assists in 33 minutes of action.

His passing helped the Wildcats jump out to a 39-25 lead at the half, scoring 9 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the opening 20 minutes, with three assists to his name.

The biggest jolt the 'Cats received came from freshman Devonaire Doutrive, who scored a season-high 8 points, on 3-of-5 shooting.

Coach Sean Miller praised the freshman for his energy, helping the Wildcats overcome a dismal second half performance to beat the Buffaloes.

"As we watched him grow and practice really from the onset, I thought there could be a period of time where he could become important to our team because his style is so much different than everybody else," Miller said. "He's an offensive rebounder, he's a tremendous athlete, he had a couple turnovers which is expected playing that many minutes as a young player when you haven't earlier." 

Miller's squad was forced to start four guards, in Williams, Brandon Randolph, Dylan Smith and Emmanuel Akot, after guard Justin Coleman dislocated his shoulder in practice on Monday.

The two Brandons did their part to pulse the offense, with Randolph adding 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting.

Miller had a measured view of his team's performance on Thursday, praising the team's first 20 minutes, while deeming the squad's 25-point, 9-for-27 offensive output in the latter half a disappointment.

"It's hard to feel great about everything just because the last 16 minutes we did not play well," Miller said, "and some of that had to do with Colorado certainly but I'm glad that we played as well as we did in the first half to give us the lead."

For Williams, Arizona's ability to overcome its self-inflicted issues in the second half bodes well for their conference championship aspirations in the Pac-12.

The freshman, alluding to Arizona State's second half collapse in their 10-point home loss to Utah on Thursday, said he's confident the road to the title still runs through Tucson.

"It's up for grabs. I think everybody sees that," Williams said. "I'm not going to name teams, but we've got to be ready every game. "

That championship quest continues at noon on Saturday, when Utah visits McKale. The team's game will be carried on the Pac-12 Network.

Miller expects a 40-minute battle from the Utes, who enter with a 7-6 record, but with the gust of confidence that comes from beating a conference title contender on the road.

"Well anytime a team wins the road game previous to the game that you played in they feel good, they're confident," Miller said. "For us, we don't have a large margin for error, we have to play well, we have to play hard and we have to be healthy." 

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