A few days after leaving the pressroom in stitches, Sean Miller didn’t need any.
If you can point to one positive on Sunday night after Arizona’s 76-54 win at McKale Center over visiting Oregon State, it’s that Miller did not need new pants.
On Wednesday after a two-point win over Oregon, Miller entered the postgame press conference late and in sweats after he tore his trousers showing his players how to box out correctly.
That wasn’t an issue Sunday.
His seams remained intact after the Wildcats dominated the Beavers on the glass, offensively and defensively. For a guy who has preached the rebounding “identity” to his team throughout the season, there was no split decision for Miller, no reason to rip his players.
After all, this was no breezy effort.
“Today we gained confidence,” Miller said. “All things considered, when you out-rebound a team like Oregon State, as big and physical as they are — they are the best team in the conference for second shots — if we take care of the ball and out-rebound on offense and defense, that is when we are at our best.”
Only eight turnovers helped do the trick. So, too, did a 39-24 rebounding advantage against a team that entered the game averaging 34 rebounds.
Facing a rather surprising three-guard lineup, the Wildcats feasted, claiming a 15-4 offensive rebounding advantage. That, in turn, led to a 13-0 win in second-chance points.
Little surprise then that the backcourt of starters T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson and reserves Gabe York, Jordin Mayes and Elliott Pitts teamed up for 15 boards themselves.
“Our big men battle so hard,” said McConnell, who grabbed six rebounds to go along with his 11 points and six assists.. “It makes it easier for the guards to rebound when their best rebounders are being blocked out.”
When they were in the game, that is.
Oregon State center Angus Brandt was limited by foul trouble and played just 17 minutes, including five in the first half, when he started off strong with nine points. Forward Eric Moreland picked up the slack on the glass, grabbing eight rebounds, but no other Beaver had more than Brandt’s four.
“Every time we go out and play, coach always talks about our identity, and our identity is offensive and defensive rebounding,” Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon said. “I haven’t been blocking out well lately, so I took it upon myself to block out well today.”
Gordon managed just five rebounds, down from his season average, but Kaleb Tarczewski had seven and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added five.
Relatively thin on the front court because of the loss of Brandon Ashley, the thorough domination had Miller relieved, particularly after the Wildcats were out-rebounded by Oregon 40-35 in the narrow victory.
“We’re not as talented or as long as we once were,” Miller said. “Brandon’s rebounding, size, depth. … We’re not going to be able to replace Brandon. We have to do it as a team. Some things we have to be able to emphasize more, and maybe emphasize a few things less. We’re working through that as a staff and as a team.”
Given the fact Miller’s pants remained intact on Sunday, it appears the Wildcats are doing just fine.