Just before they jetted out of town, and well after final exams officially ended, Arizona coach Sean Miller decided to give the Wildcats one more test.
In a 82-56 win over Robert Morris, Arizona had a new starting forward (Jesse Perry), moving senior Jamelle Horne to the bench, and did not use backup point guard Jordin Mayes in the second half at all while Brendon Lavender served as the point guard behind MoMo Jones.
While Perry responded with a career high 16 points, the rest of the game was fairly routine for the Wildcats, who finished nonconference play at 11-2. The Wildcats received a typical contribution from Derrick Williams (17 points, nine rebound) and kept control of the game by limiting the Colonials to 33.9 percent shooting.
Arizona went on a 10-0 run to start the second half, taking a 48-38 lead by the time Jesse Perry rolled in a layup with 17 minutes left. The Wildcats kept the Colonials scoreless for the first three and a half minutes after halftime.
Derrick Williams and Kyle Fogg hit three pointers while UA expanded its lead to 60-36 with 14 minutes to go and coasted the rest of the way.
Not only did Lavender play point guard for several possessions in the second half, but Miller also played Daniel Bejarano and the team’s walk-ons instead of turning to Mayes at any point in the second half. Mayes did not play because of a stomach virus.
In the first half, Williams had 10 points and six rebounds to lead Arizona to a 38-28 halftime lead. Arizona held the Colonials of the Northeast Conference to 35.5 percent shooting and forced 10 turnovers, though the Wildcats led by only two points with eight minutes to go in the half.
Miller replaced Horne in the starting lineup with Perry for the first time this season, after Horne struggled in the Wildcats’ past two games.
Perry had a career-high 10 points and six rebounds in the Wildcats' 72-62 win at North Carolina State on Sunday.
Miller last benched Horne at the start of UA’s March 4 home game against UCLA last season, after Horne had been in a three-game slump. Horne responded with seven points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes off the benchy, and had 16 points and eight rebounds as a starter two days later against USC.
This time, Horne averaged 2.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in UA’s past two games, against NAU and North Carolina State. But he had no points and no rebounds in six minutes of the first half tonight, finishing with seven points and two rebounds overall.
Robert Morris cut Arizona’s lead to just two points, 20-18 on a rebound basket by Lawrence Bridges, with just over eight minutes left in the first half. But Perry threw down a dunk on the sideline and was fouled, hitting the ensuing free throw to make it UA a 23-18 lead with eight minutes left in the first half.
Later, Solomon Hill drove to the basket for a basket and foul, giving the Wildcats a 32-24 lead with 3:59 to go in the first half.
Nearly all of the Wildcat players are expected to leave town Thursday morning for a three-day break over Christmas weekend. They are scheduled to return for a practice Sunday night and begin preparation for their Dec. 30 Pac-10 opener at Oregon.