To Sean Miller, an ideal Christmas break means players spend time with friends and family, preferably without touching a basketball.

"It's just nice to have nothing to do," he said before the Wildcats dispatched Robert Morris 82-56 on Wednesday.

It's even nicer when you're 11-2, with some momentum as the Pac-10 season nears.

Showing signs of slumping earlier this month in homecourt wins over Cal State-Fullerton and NAU, while being blown out against BYU in Salt Lake City, the Wildcats turned in a second straight convincing effort against Robert Morris before 13,982 fans at McKale Center.

The Wildcats had beaten North Carolina State 72-62 on Sunday in Raleigh, N.C., so Wednesday's victory finished their nonconference season with just two losses entering the beginning of Pac-10 Conference play next Thursday at Oregon.

"We had a lot of good things going: great ball movement, a lot of unselfishness, three games in a row our turnovers are down, we had 17 assists and to me our defense regained its form," Miller said.

"I give our guys a tremendous amount of credit. They were focused, and I feel the N.C. State trip in general renewed our confidence."

The Wildcats cruised Wednesday despite two obstacles. Miller swapped out struggling senior forward Jamelle Horne for junior Jesse Perry in the starting lineup, and he was without backup point guard Jordin Mayes in the second half because of a worsening stomach virus.

No matter. Perry responded by picking up a season-high 16 points, with four rebounds, while Brendon Lavender played capably in place of Mayes as the backup to point guard MoMo Jones.

And Horne, while going without a rebound or point in the first half, came up with seven points and two rebounds in the second half.

Miller said it was definitely possible he will continue to start Perry into the Pac-10 season, but won't be ignoring Horne by any means, either.

"It's nothing personal and it doesn't mean that Jamelle won't start in the future," Miller said. "To me, he's lost a little bit of his confidence, not only the past couple of games but in practice. But we're going to stay with Jamelle.

"We need Jamelle to be a factor for our team to be the best it can be. He knows that. He made some good plays tonight and he's still going to be a really big part of what we do. But you can't start unless you're one of the best five players every day, and that's why Jesse started.

"He handled it well and I'm really counting on Jamelle to be a solid senior, with the experience he has in the Pac-10, him playing well makes our team better."

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 bench, and had 16 points and eight rebounds as a starter two days later against USC.

Horne entered Wednesday's game averaging 2.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in UA's past two games. But he played just six minutes of the first half before bouncing back in the second half.

Perry made the most of his opportunity, except at the free-throw line. He missed 4 of 8 free throws, but was everywhere else, with four rebounds, 6 of 8 field goal shooting and a steal.

"He plays hard on every possession," said Derrick Williams, who led the Wildcats with 17 points and nine rebounds. "That's what our team needs."

With Perry scoring six points alone in the first four minutes after halftime, Arizona went on a 10-0 run to start the second half that buried the Colonials for good. Arizona led 48-28 by the time Perry rolled in a layup with 17 minutes left and kept the Colonials scoreless for the first 3 1/2 minutes after halftime.

Overall, Robert Morris (4-7) shot just 33.9 percent, the second straight game the Wildcats have kept their opponent under 35 percent shooting.

Williams and Kyle Fogg hit three-pointers while UA expanded its lead to 60-36 with 12:28 to go and coasted the rest of the way.

The fact that Lavender performed admirably during that period was a relief for Miller. The coach had been playing Lavender at point guard on his third team in practice but was never sure what game pressure would reveal.

"We try to give Brendon a rep in practice on almost everything we do so that he doesn't get caught in a situation where, although he's our emergency point guard, he runs out there and we can't function," Miller said.

"We can run our offense with Brendon at the one. It was good to see him do a great job today."



• Who: Arizona at Oregon

• When: 8 p.m., next Thursday

• TV: Channel 58 (also tape delayed on FSAZ at 10:30 p.m.)

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM