After the exhibition trip to the Bahamas, Arizona had to wait months to play new competition. After two exhibition games, the regular season has finally come for the Arizona Wildcats.
With many new faces on the roster, Arizona will open the season against Charleston Southern (0-1). The Buccaneers lost a close game 68-58 on the road to Charlotte and although the game was hard fought, Charlotte bulled away late in the game to hand Charleston Southern a season-opening loss.
Barclay Radebaugh coaches the Buccaneers and is heading into his eighth season as the Head Coach at Charleston Southern. He is coming off his best season as a coach, as Charleston Southern finished with a 19-12 record, one of the best in school history.
The Buccaneers are led by sophomore guard Saah Nimley. As a freshman, Nimley emerged as a key player and was named a Mid-Major All-American. In the season opener, he scored a game-high 20 points in 32 minutes played. Nimley also had two assists on the night, but it was offset by his game-high six turnovers.
The other guard in the starting lineup is junior Sheldon Strickland, who is enjoying the starting role after coming off the bench a year ago. Against Charlotte, Strickland only had four points, but added two rebounds and a block to go along with excellent defense and composure.
One things thing that will challenge the Wildcats is the Buccaneers’ impressive forwards. Mathiang Muo, a 6-foot-5 small forward, was all over the glass against Charlotte, grabbing a game-high eleven rebounds. He did foul out of the ball game, but not before adding six points to the team total.
Paul Gombwer almost had an equally impressive performance for the Buccaneers. Gombwer, a 6-foot-6 power forward, hit a single three-pointer on the night, and had four turnovers. However, the forward snatched ten rebounds, with eight of them coming on the offensive glass.
CSU’s center is similar to what Arizona had a year ago with Jessie Perry. Allie Fullah plays the center position for Charleston Southern, but is only 6-foot-7. In his first game in a CSU uniform, the junior transfer tallied just two points and a block as he suffered from foul trouble for most of the night.
The true sixth man for the Buccaneers is Arlon Harper. The sophomore guard made a name for himself last season on the team with his three-point shooting ability. Harper was just 2-4 from beyond the arc against Charlotte, but had 12 points on the night to go with two assists and five rebounds.
Senior guard Jeremy Sexton saw considerable minutes off the bench as well. He ran the point guard position when Strickland was out of the game and did a decent job. There was some drop-off in play, but it wasn’t enough to keep Sexton off the floor. He had three points, an assist, and a steal on the night.
The main backup at the forward position is another sophomore. Cedrick Bowen saw 23 minutes of action, which are almost as many minutes as the starters played. He grabbed six rebounds, four coming on the defensive end of the floor, and put six points on the board.
Arizona will play smaller teams for most of the season and will get to utilize the size disadvantage that plagued the Wildcats for the past few seasons. Charleston Southern’s tallest player is 6-foot-9 and it will be interesting to see how Kaleb Tarczewski plays against smaller, faster competition.
With the season finally under way, the Wildcats will get a chance to show what they have in an official capacity. After surpassing the 100-point mark in the exhibition games, Arizona will be trying to put up just as many points against the Buccaneers.
There shouldn’t be much of a challenge for Arizona if it plays like the exhibition games. Should the Wildcats come ready to play, the game could be over at the midpoint of the second half. So far this season, that is exactly what the Wildcats have done. Now, it is time to see if Arizona can continue the dominance in the regular season.