In the six Pac-12 games he played before Sunday, Jordin Mayes averaged 3.5 minutes and 1.0 points. Roughly two-thirds of his production came in UA’s blowout win over Washington State on Jan. 2, too.
But against Oregon State, Mayes crammed in nine points – a three-pointer and 6-for-6 free-throw shooting – into a five-minute appearance.
By doing so, he gave UA another measure of hope that there might be some valuable pieces on the bench, after all.
“It was good to see Jordin make a shot,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “He went 6 for 6 from the foul line. We always trust him on defense, and confidence is a big part of all this so hopefully this game can spark him to regain some of that confidence he had earlier.”
Having been one of UA’s selected players for postgame interviews, Mayes gave typically soft-spoken answers to the questions he was asked. One of them centered around how he felt now that the team needs depth.
“It’s just me believing in myself and my teammates believing in me, and just going out there and playing basketball,” he said.
Mayes was also asked how he balances proving himself on the court with trying to let the game come to him.
“I just go out there and play basketball, do what you can do,” he said. “They trust me on the defensive end, so I’m going go out there and play my heart out. On offense, it’s just being confident in myself, make plays, hit open shots, and get other teammates involved. Just playing basketball.”
Elliott Pitts missed all three three-pointers he took, but grabbed three rebounds in 14 minutes and played defense that Miller commended.
“Elliott has done a real good job in the three (recent) games he’s played,” Miller said. “I thought all three shots he took were good ones. It’s not easy to make them when you’ve been sitting so long this year but we’ve talked to him about being aggressive and … he gives us another shooter, opens the court up, gives us a different look for sure.
“The thing I’m most proud about with him is he’s really battled defensively. As a young player, he’s ahead of the curve on defense. He guarded (OSU’s Eric) Moreland at times, he guarded the perimeter, and there wasn’t a big dropoff. Seeing him be responsible and contribute as much defense as he did is a good sign for us.”
Aaron Gordon generated some laughs when responding to a question about how he hadn’t tried many three-pointers lately.
“Uh, no,” Gordon said. “I haven’t made one.”
After the laughs died down, Gordon addressed what was his first made three since Dec. 19 and the ninth he’d tried in Pac-12 games.
“It helped my confidence a bit,” he said. “I know I’m a very capable shooter. Just to see one goes down feels good. I’m gonna continue to shoot it.”
Gordon said his confidence doesn’t lack because of the work he puts in on his shooting.
“We work so much on our shot every day in practice,” he said. “All of you and all of the fans might not see how much I work on my shot but I know my teammates know and my coach knows how much I work on my shot. So that gives me the confidence to shoot in the game.”
When asked about Gordon’s three-pointer in the right corner during the first half, Miller said:
“We’ve talked to him about taking responsible, wide-open threes,” Miller said. “He’s a much better shooter in practice than he’s shown in games and the same thing at the free throw line. … He shot only one (free throw, a miss) today but the one looked good. He wasn’t tight. He was relaxed. He just needs the ball to go in a little bit and his percentage will definitely rise.
“He’s not a 70-percent free-throw shooter but he’s a much better free throw shooter than he’s shown and I believe that will play out as the year keeps moving forward.”
OSU’s Roberto Nelson entered the game leading the Pac-12 in scoring with 21.8 points in league games. He had scored 21 or more points in 8 of 10 Pac-12 games before Sunday and never less than 12 (which UCLA held him to).
On Sunday, Nelson was 3 for 12 for 10 points.
Miller and T.J. McConnell were asked how they did it.
“We’re an excellent defensive team,” Miller said. “We have a couple of guards who take it personally, Nick Johnson being at the forefront of that. Tonight it wasn’t just Nick, because as you know there are a lot of screens involved and our big guys did a good job. Our game plan was to try to make it tough on them.”
McConnell said: “The bigs just did a good job of helping us when we got ball-screened, and everyone was in their gaps. It was a team effort on Nelson. We did a great job on him.”
Here's the official box score.