Cats' rebounding wows Duquesne

2011-11-10T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:43:11Z Cats' rebounding wows DuquesnePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 10, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Arizona coach Sean Miller introduced himself to Duquesne guard T.J. McConnell on Wednesday night and wished him luck.

Miller knows McConnell's family, which features one Olympian, one Hall of Famer and a few college and high school coaches.

"Tell everyone in Pittsburgh I said hi," Miller said.

If any viewers back home watched the Arizona Wildcats' 67-59 win on national television, they didn't need an introduction to Miller's style of play. The Cats weren't pretty, but they outrebounded the Dukes by 12.

"That's a trademark Sean Miller thing," said Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, who faced Miller when the latter coached at Xavier. Miller also grew up in Pittsburgh and played for Pitt.

"His guys don't just do it well, they understand how to do it well," Everhart said. "We probably … had a chance to win this game, except they beat us to the ball several times and kept it alive (for) additional chances."

UA forward Jesse Perry, Everhart said, kept the UA alive with five offensive rebounds and 11 overall. Despite the Dukes forcing the Cats to play a small lineup - Kyryl Natyazhko was mothballed frequently in favor of a guard, trying to counter the press - they just couldn't grab a rebound.

"They killed us," McConnell said.

Senior Eric Evans said that the "night came down to rebounding." The Dukes had focused on boxing out in practice, to little avail.

"Arizona is the bigger team," Evans said, "and was crashing the boards."

Guard Jordin Mayes, the Wildcats' leading scorer with 19 points, said that Perry, who played the center position often, dictated the game from the post.

"Jesse really battled down there, getting offensive rebounds and second-chance shots," he said. "That was a big advantage for us."

The Wildcats forced Duquesne to shoot 35.2 percent from the field, and 19 percent from beyond the three-point arc. By point of comparison, last year's team averaged 45.8 percent from the field and 36 percent from three.

"Well, we know Sean. And we know Arizona basketball," Everhart said. "And obviously they're a very good defensive team, and they really took us out of some of the things we really wanted to do in the halfcourt."

To break the press, the UA passed the ball into Mayes and sent every other offensive player down the court. The isolation prevented the Dukes, who still totaled 20 steals, from trapping in the backcourt.

McConnell - who finished with 9 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals - said the team could take positives away from being within two possessions in the final minute.

Last season's Atlantic 10 rookie of the year, McConnell committed after his freshman year of high school, when he stood 5 feet 8 inches and 125 pounds. Miller raved about him this week.

"I really appreciate him as a player," Miller said.

McConnell played for his father, Tim, a legendary Pittsburgh-area high school coach; as a senior on a state title-winning squad, he averaged 34.2 points.

McConnell's aunt, Suzie McConnell-Serio, was an Olympic gold medalist. She's now Duquesne's women's basketball coach. Her sister, Kathy, has been a head coach at Tulsa and Colorado. Another sister, Maureen, played at Pitt.

McConnell's uncle, Tom, was the St. Francis (Pa.) coach for seven years.

Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, McConnell knew about Miller. He's never been compared to the former Pitt guard, but would take it as the highest compliment.

"He's well-known in Pittsburgh," McConnell said. "He'll never be forgotten."

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