SALT LAKE CITY – There was some speculation Wednesday that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson didn’t start at Utah because he had missed some time in practice this week when he was banged up.
That wasn't the case, Sean Miller said after UA beat Utah 67-63 in overtime Wednesday.
The UA coach said it was all about igniting something in Gabe York, who started his second game as a Wildcat and responded with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who had started since Brandon Ashley went down on Feb. 1, returned to his sixth-man role. He will stay there for now, with Miller saying he would likely keep York in the starting lineup.
“We wanted to give Gabe an opportunity at the beginning,” Miller said. “Sometimes if you give a guy a fresh opportunity they play with more confidence. And it ended up working. He shot the ball like he’s capable of.
“Rondae’s role didn’t change. He played the same amount of minutes (31 on Wednesday). It kind of gave Gabe what I would call a new beginning where you have a chance to start and be out there. It as great to see."
York said the start himself didn’t necessarily give him a boost of confidence as much as he just found his rhythm.
“I knew I was going to start,” he said. “I don’t think it really did (boost confidence) -- I just think it was a matter of time before I had a breakout game. I haven’t shot the ball really well as of late. It was good to get in the program.”
While York found himself during regulation, Nick Johnson did the same in overtime.
Playing well in the clutch all season, except during UA’s losses at Cal and ASU, Johnson made 6 of 7 free throws, including 4 of 4 in the final 22 seconds of overtime. He also hit a key 17-foot jump shot with 2:21 left in regulation to give UA a 56-55 lead it nearly hung on to.
“I felt like he put a game or two behind him where the ball didn’t go in like it normally does,” Miller said. “He really was himself here with big buckets and free throws. It’s what he’s done all year. We wouldn’t have been able to win without his performance.”
Not only did point guard T.J. McConnell lead the Wildcats in shots taken (13), another game when he’s been forced to take advantage of how defenses are playing off him, but he nearly put the game all but away earlier in the overtime period.
With UA up 62-60 after Delon Wright made two free throws for Utah with 1:18 left, McConnell inbounded the ball, then took it back and drove inside for a layup he missed.
“I was just off balance. I wasn’t too happy about it,” McConnell said. “They were double-teaming Nick. I threw it to Kaleb and he handed it right off to me (on the wing) and I was open.”
But, more important for Arizona was that McConnell had six assists and no turnovers – after he had an uncharacteristic six turnovers and two assists at ASU.
“We believe in T.J., and six assists, no turnovers is excellent,” Miller said. “One of the reasons we won is his floor game tonight.”
Aaron Gordon picked up two early charges that eventually led to his first foul-out of the season. He left with 8:41 remaining in the second half, having scored just three points on 1-for-3 field goal shooting with three rebounds in 20 minutes.
“He couldn’t quite get going tonight,” Miller said. “Obviously he had a couple of tough calls go against him but it says a lot about our team that to be resilient and still find a way to win.”
Both McConnell and York also indicated after the game that they thought some of the calls were questionable.
“I’m not sure all of them were fouls but he just plays hard and he’ll have a good night Saturday,” McConnell said. “A lot of teams would have broken with one of their star guys out so I think we did a good job of picking each other up.”
Here's the official boxscore.
Elsewhere in the Pac-12 Wednesday:
-- UCLA stayed a game behind Arizona by beating up on Cal.
-- Tad Boyle chest-bumped Colorado's AD after the Buffs took care of ASU.
-- Oregon kept its postseason hopes alive by beating Washington.
Tonight's Pac-12 games:
WSU at OSU, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
USC at Stanford, 9 p.m., Pac-12 Networks