Arizona basketball: Cats reach 100 points, Miller gets milestone win

2013-11-19T00:00:00Z 2014-01-22T18:07:25Z Arizona basketball: Cats reach 100 points, Miller gets milestone winBy Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A hundred wins. A hundred points.

That’s a lot of zeros. So maybe Arizona Wildcats guard Gabe York can be excused for talking about his team’s scoring output in a 100-50 blowout win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Monday night when he was actually asked about the fact that coach Sean Miller picked up his 100th career UA victory in the process.

“I think that’s awesome that our team is capable of scoring a lot of points like that,” said York, who had a fifth of them with his career-high 20 points.

Then, when he was asked to comment instead on Miller’s victory total, UA teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson interrupted.

“That means wins, Gabe,” Hollis-Jefferson said, jokingly.

York smiled and refocused.

“I think that’s great for him,” York said. “He’s a great coach and I think he’s going to get a lot more victories. One hundred is not going to end it. I’m definitely excited to see what the end is going to be.”

Maybe that end won’t be for a long while.

“It feels good,” Miller said about the career milestone. “Better to celebrate that than not be at that number. Hopefully there’s many more this year and beyond.”

Miller’s 100th win, coming just four games into his fifth season with UA, was never in doubt at McKale Center, moving the No. 5 Cats to 4-0 and into a second-round NIT Season Tip-Off game against Rhode Island (3-1) tonight at 9. The winner will advance to New York for the NIT semifinals on Nov. 27.

The Wildcats put together runs of 18-3 and 18-2 in Monday’s first half, then kept the pressure on in the early second half, when they first built leads of more than 40 points. They experimented with reserves and walk-ons for much of the final 10 minutes, but still won by 50.

No UA starter played more than 25 minutes, and Miller used his entire 15-man roster, which could help keep the Wildcats fresher for tonight’s game.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island went down to the wire with Division II Metro State, winning 66-63.

“It was important tonight because it allowed a lot of starters and key guys to rest,” Miller said. They “shouldn’t feel like they just had a hard-fought game.”

While York led all scorers with 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting — he made 4 of 6 three-pointers —Nick Johnson added 16 points and Hollis-Jefferson scored all of his 11 points in the first half.

UA point guard T.J. McConnell, meanwhile, had nine assists to just one turnover, for a greater than 4-to-1 ratio on the season so far.

The easy win gave Miller a chance to debut freshman guard Elliott Pitts, who had missed the Wildcats’ first three games with a wrist injury.

Pitts was under consideration for a redshirt season, but Miller said last week it was becoming unlikely, and Pitts’ participation Monday means he can no longer qualify for a non-medical redshirt season.

Pitts played 13 minutes, finishing with five points, while wearing a bandage on his wrist.

He played the final minutes with four walk-ons, and hit a three-pointer for the final score with 44 seconds left, bringing loud cheers from the 8,000 or so fans at McKale who stayed all the way until the end of the late-night affair that started at 9 p.m.

“It was great to get Elliott Pitts in the game,” Miller said. “Everyone can see he’s a young colt that has a lot of talent.”

The Wildcats also gave five minutes to forward Zach Peters, who has played in only two games since he was cleared medically for full contact, though Peters went scoreless with two fouls in five minutes.

Up by 27 at halftime, the Wildcats kept steamrolling the Knights early in the second, taking a 47-point lead with 12:14 left when York drove in for a layup that gave him 17 points at the time. He had already broken his career-high of 14 points when he hit a three-pointer with 12:57 left.

“The way our team is this year, we have to go full throttle, every second of the game,” York said. “That’s the way coach taught us and it sort of became the way our team acted.”

In the first half, the Wildcats started turning the game into a fast-paced dunk fest in the first half, taking a 51-24 halftime lead.

The Wildcats put together runs of 18-3 and 18-2 while holding the overmatched Knights to 32.3 percent shooting. Hollis-Jefferson led the Wildcats in scoring with 11 electric points, while York threw down a fast-break dunk that brought a roar from the McKale crowd.

“It’s great to play when you’re rolling and you’ve got it going,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “All those things are great. You want to keep going.”

York finished with nine points in the half, while UA center Kaleb Tarczewski added eight points and five rebounds.

Playing on an 11 p.m. tipoff in its home time zone, Fairleigh Dickinson kept with UA early, tying the game at 8 with 16:47 on a layup by Sidney Sanders.

But the Wildcats went on an 18-3 run to take a 28-13 lead with 7:43 left in the half and blew it open down the stretch with an 18-2 blast that included thundering dunks from York and Hollis-Jefferson.

The Wildcats aren’t expecting as easy of a time tonight against Rhode Island, which is rebuilding under second-year coach Dan Hurley.

But Miller is hoping the pedal stays fully on the floor, to make sure the Wildcats can reach Madison Square Garden and possibly face No. 6 Duke in the final.

“We don’t get anything if we don’t win tomorrow,” Miller said. “So our goal is to win this four game tournament (at McKale) and get to New York.”

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