Arizona basketball: Cats are a tall order of business

UA's Kaleb Tarczewski takes a shot against Charleston Southern University forward Mathiang Muo who tries to block it from behind.


LOS ANGELES - The Arizona Wildcats parcel out games into palatable pieces, four-minute stretches they can aim to win and keep mental score during.

Consider Jordin Mayes, then, the MVP of one of the 10 miniature games played during Friday night's 67-62 Pac-10 Tournament semifinal win against USC.

The Trojans had cut the UA's lead from nine to four about five minutes into the second half when Jamelle Horne made a jumper to put the Cats ahead by six.

Then Mayes made a three-pointer.

Then, after a Jio Fontan layup, another three.

And then a floater in the key after knifing into the lane.

"The floater's always a good shot," Mayes said, smiling. "Especially if you're a little guy going against a big guy."

That gave the Wildcats a 12-point lead, their largest all game, with about 12 minutes to play.

"He had eight quick points and a couple threes and that broke open the game," forward Derrick Williams said.

It was at a crucial time, too, because few Wildcats besides Williams were scoring. The UA finished with two players in double-digits. Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and MoMo Jones - the Wildcats' three starting guards - finished 5-for-18.

"He saw a situation where we needed him to step up," Jones said. "I wasn't hitting shots. Kev wasn't hitting shots. Solo wasn't hitting shots. Things weren't going our way.

Mayes' production came at the perfect time.

His season high of 11 came Dec. 1 at Rice, when he made a season-best four shots.

His season high for minutes came against USC at McKale Center, when he played 20 minutes Jan. 29.

Friday night, he played only 12 minutes, but scored eight points.

The city was appropriate, too.

For years, Mayes was one of the great winners in Los Angeles basketball, leading powerhouse Westchester High School to back-to-back CIF Division I state titles.

"Part of what he brings to our team is the intangibles of knowing how to win, because of where he's from," UA coach Sean Miller said. "What high school he went to. Who his high school coach was, and just that pedigree.

"You can tell he believes in himself, and he's very, very unselfish."

Maybe too much so.

"He's very poised for a young player," Jones said. "I think sometimes he's too poised. Sometimes he has to have a sense of urgency. I think tonight he had a real sense of urgency and helped us out."

Jones liked the aggressiveness.

"I would like to see that Jordin Mayes everyday - in practice, games, even off the court," Jones said. "I think that he can be a great player one day. I think he has a lot of tools that most guys don't have. He can shoot the ball. His basketball IQ is sky-high."

Being assertive is hard to do when your minutes are limited.

"I'd say that's the most difficult thing as a player to do," Horne said. "Especially when you play not so well for a game or two and then come back into a game of this magnitude."

Mayes characterized his transition from high school star to freshman role player as a "work in progress." He watches Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, NBA guards who push the ball and include their teammates, and tries to pattern his game after theirs.

And then there's Kobe Bryant, the King of Staples Center. Mayes said it was "an honor" to play in Kobe's home Friday.

He'll be needed in another gymnasium next week, when the Wildcats play in the NCAA tournament.

"Mayes was just being Mayes," said guard Kyle Fogg, limited to 12 minutes with a quadriceps strain. "He went out there and more than usual, what he did was be aggressive and really play with that confidence that we need him to play with.

"There was a three- or four-minute stretch when the second group really brought our team back.

"He single-handedly got us that big lead we got."