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Sleepless nights: Arizona’s Miller ponders production at center

There wasn't much for Kyryl Natyazhko to shout about Thursday night. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller barely slept. He stayed up Thursday night and broke down the video of his team’s exhibition loss to Seattle Pacific, then had to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Los Angeles for Pac-12 Media Day.

He found plenty of teachable moments on the video and conjured ideas about lineup changes. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar even said at Pac-12 Media Day that the loss will help ensure Arizona doesn’t fall into a “false sense of security.

All that is potentially good.

But, really, no part of Miller was happy about dropping an exhibition game to a Division II school, even one as good as Seattle Pacific, even one that has a Pac-12-level big man in Gonzaga transfer Andy Poling.

“It’s hard,” Miller said of losing anytime, anywhere.

“It’s what you’re judged by. It can really become obsessive.”

Good news for Miller is he is compulsively in control of the product and will get back to work this weekend, putting his team through some hard paces as it prepares for Tuesday’s exhibition against another Division II team, Humboldt State. Miller said he has heard Humboldt State has a better team than Seattle Pacific.

“It will be a war,” Miller said.

That might not be what you want to hear about an exhibition game, but that is the state of the Wildcats, who can’t take anything for granted. The fact that centers Kyryl Natyazhko and Sidiki Johnson managed only two rebounds in a combined 38 minutes continued to gnaw at Miller a day later.

“Improved defense and certainly rebounding,” Miller said of what he wants from the center spot.

“That’s an important job for anybody’s 5 man — to rebound. It wasn’t just them, but clearly, the statistics don’t lie. We have to get more out of that, and that is why I may be adding a third guy to that rotation so that we defend and we rebound.

“From there, points will come. There will be some games when they score more than others, but what we need consistently is defense and rebounding.”

Miller can’t replace the (often easy) offense Derrick Williams provided last season from a post position, but he does need Natyazhko and Johnson to eat up space, minutes and rebounds. If they can’t do it, he could add that third guy — 6-foot-9 freshman power forward Angelo Chol — to that center rotation.

Moving up Jesse Perry (6-7, 220) from power forward to center isn’t likely to happen, Miller said.

“Jesse, I don’t think is big enough,” Miller said. “If anything, Jesse can make us bigger by playing some 3, which he is more suited for than the 5.”

Some limited help could eventually come from senior Alex Jacobson, a 7-footer who did not play Thursday night because of recurring lower back problems.

“We don’t know when he will return,” Miller said. “Last night would have been an example of a game where we could have really used him.”

Jacobson won’t be available Tuesday against Humboldt State, Miller said.

Other big-man problems from Thursday night were that Johnson fouled out in 14 minutes, and he and Natyazhko each picked up a foul for an illegal screen within the first 10 minutes of the game.

Miller will be trying to prod more production from that pair over the weekend.

If not, he could have many more sleepless nights.

Other Pac-12 Media Day stories:

Parrom’s progress: Perhaps all the ‘bad things are over’

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar: Arizona won’t have a false sense of security

Media Day live blog: Cats not third-best team, Miller says; Cal’s Montgomery ‘all clear’ from bladder cancer

Media picks third in Pac-12 preseason poll

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