UA-ORU

No. 4 Arizona 89, Oral Roberts 64: Wildcats keep rolling

UA stays levelheaded, surprisingly so for such a young group
2012-12-19T00:00:00Z 2012-12-20T07:07:12Z No. 4 Arizona 89, Oral Roberts 64: Wildcats keep rollingBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

There was plenty to nitpick at, and Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller was OK that.

In Arizona's 89-64 win over Oral Roberts on Tuesday at McKale Center, the Wildcats turned the ball over 17 times. They allowed the Golden Eagles (5-5) to make half of their three-point shots. And they didn't get a single offensive rebound in the first half.

Miller had concerns about all those things. But he's also fully aware of the bigger picture that emerged Tuesday: His fourth-ranked Wildcats (9-0) have an almost un-human levelheadedness about them, never being seriously challenged by a respectable team in what could have been the biggest letdown situation of the season.

The Wildcats were just three days removed from their biggest nonconference victory in the Miller era, a 65-64 win over then-fifth-ranked Florida, and the glow had not faded much.

Miller even said before Tuesday's game on the Pac-12 teleconference call that he still had people congratulating him over the Florida game, "as if no one recognizes that we have a game here tonight," and he knew his players were probably dealing with the same thing.

But if some Wildcats fans were still a bit hung over from the Florida game, the Wildcats themselves were not. They played mostly like a team focused on the present, taking an early 12-4 lead and never leading by fewer than six points the rest of the way.

"Our guys were ready for the game. They really were," Miller said. "Again, you're at the mercy so much of your team's maturity. … It's the leadership and it's the youth being as mature as they are, and it's someone like Nick (Johnson, sophomore guard) who is still young in his career, but he looks like a senior out there."

It was even a freshmen, Grant Jerrett, who says he stayed level the entire time his production dipped earlier this month - and then he dropped a season-high 15 points on Oral Roberts.

Included in Jerrett's game Tuesday was 3-of-3 three-point shooting after he had failed to hit any long-range shots in the Wildcats' three previous games.

The key was "to stay aggressive and stay confident, just look for my teammates and try to make the simple play," Jerrett said.

The stats might indicate Jerrett drew a bit more confidence during the Florida game, when he chipped in five key points and three rebounds, but the soft-spoken freshmen didn't quite look at it that way.

"No," he said, adding that he has had the "same" approach all season.

Miller agreed, sort of. Miller said the Jerrett that appeared in the past two games is the same guy he's seen in practices all season but did see a confidence boost after the second half of the Florida game, when Jerrett hit 2 of 3 shots during the Wildcats' comeback drive.

"Sometimes you just need that ball to go in the basket, to have that good play happen," Miller said. "He had that happen for him in the Florida game.

"But Grant is just a phenomenal kid. He's one of the most unselfish kids that I've ever been around, and it's only a matter of time before his talent will take over, and he played an excellent game for us tonight. Certainly the best game of his career."

Jerrett hit two three-pointers in the first half, when UA built a 45-31 halftime lead, his first threes since the Wildcats played at Texas Tech on Dec. 1. He then started the second half in place of center Kaleb Tarczewski, who fouled out for the second straight game, this time after just 16 minutes.

That was another one of Miller's minor complaints about Tuesday. He just wasn't sure if it was completely Tarczewski's fault.

"I'm really disappointed. I have to take a look at his fouls," Miller said, who then turned on the sarcasm. "One of the things I'm thinking of telling him is, 'If anyone wants to run into you, just run away - run on your tippy toes. Fall down as much as you can. Get out of the way when the game gets physical.'

"Because part of being a 7-footer is it's almost as if they're watching you in a different light. And I ask myself, 'Are we doing everything we can to protect him and put him in a good position?'"

Tarczewski had his moments, however. He dunked off an assist from Solomon Hill to give UA a 28-15 lead with 7:50 left in the first half, completing a 7-0 run that pulled the Wildcats into double-digit leads for the rest of the game.

He came back in the second half with a layup inside to give UA a 63-38 lead with 13:29 left and later dunked again when the Wildcats were putting the game away for good.

Both of Tarczewski's second-half field goals were assisted by guard Mark Lyons, who had seven assists and only three turnovers to push himself into a positive assist-to-turnover ratio for the first time this season since UA's opener against Charleston Southern.

Lyons also added a team-high 17 points, while making 6 of 10 shots and adding his usual exuberance.

Well, maybe a bit too much exuberance. Lyons was whistled for a technical foul late in the first half while enjoying himself after a second-half alley-oop dunk that Jordin Mayes fed him.

"He probably got carried away," Miller said about Lyons. "It was probably a good call. He has to control his emotions. But I don't think he was trying to show anyone up as much as it was an exciting play, and he showed the excitement a little too much."

Besides, considering the potential for a letdown, to err on the side of excitement was probably a good thing for the Wildcats.

On StarNet: See more photos from the game at azstarnet.com/gallery

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