CORVALLIS, Ore. – When Sean Miller wasn’t talking about the evolution of freshmen Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley after UA’s 80-70 win over Oregon State on Saturday, he spoke of how key veterans such as Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom were.
That wasn’t all, either.
“Nick Johnson was kind of understated,” Miller said. “But if you look at his stats, he had five assists and two turnovers, 14 points. He played well.
“We talked about Grant Jerrett. During the game, Solomon was key and in the second half, Kevin Parrom really impacted us. It was a total team effort. I think we’re a collection of guys that on a given night can help, and have good nights.”
Miller slightly expanded his rotation Saturday, using Angelo Chol for four minutes after he did not play Chol at Oregon and said Friday he needed to give his key players more of a breather. On Saturday, both Hill and Johnson played 35 minutes, and Mark Lyons put in 33, but nobody else played more than 22.
“We played everybody and it was good for us to do that,” Miller said.
The 39.3-percent shooting that OSU put up was the lowest of any UA opponent since Miami shot 36.5 percent from the field on Dec. 23. All of the previous four UA opponents shot more than 42 percent from the field, with Oregon hitting 48.1 percent on Thursday.
Mark Lyons said good ball pressure made the difference.
“Our defensive effort was definitely a lot better today,” Lyons said. “Grant Jerrett and Brandon really played a lot better. It shows with Grant --- he had six blocks. His effort was tremendous. But Brandon and our whole team played better.”
Jerrett had eight points, six blocks and five rebounds, tripling his previous season-high in blocks. Ashley had 12 points and seven rebounds, with 6-for-8 shooting.
That’s a combined 20 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. While those may have been the kind of numbers some would expect from the first two McDonalds All-Americans that Miller has landed, it is, as Miller likes to say, a process.
Jerrett went scoreless in his previous two games while Ashley only had one previous double-digit scoring effort since UA faced East Tennessee State on Dec. 22.
“They’re freshmen,” Miller said. “They’re not going to come in with a cape and gown and be the third pick in the NBA draft in 5 months. That’s fantasyland for 99 percent of athletes. But they are really good players, great kids, and I believe that one day there’s no question about it they can head in that direction.
“But it’s a process. It’s a process they’re more than happy to go through. They work hard every day and as you can see tonight they’re immensely talented. But sometimes unfairly so you expect these guys to come in and all of a sudden take over. “
It helped UA that the Wildcats did not have to face OSU’s Eric Moreland, the rangy 6-10 forward who is averaging 11.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals but was suspended indefinitely on Thursday.
“I believe Moreland is one of the best players in our conference and I feel bad that he wasn’t able to play,” Miller said. “Hopefully that situation will remedy itself. He’s a really talented player.”
OSU coach Craig Robinson said backup wing Victor Robbins, who was also suspended Thursday, also might have helped Saturday. Robinson said Robbins would return Saturday against USC but remained unsure when Moreland would.
The Wildcats’ 25 three-pointers represented their third-highest three-point attempts of the season. They hit 10 of them, though, better than their 11-for-32 performance against Charleston Southern and better than a 9-for-26 mark against ETSU.
Arizona is now shooting 38.6 percent from three-point range, the best mark in the Pac-12 so far.
“We took some good ones,” Miller said. “We’re the best three-point shooting team in the conference at this point. Its important we take them and not fall in love with them. Sometimes we probably take too many but that’s what they gave us tonight and we took them.”
Had a good talk with former Wildcat Isaiah Fox at halftime Thursday, and wrote an item on him in today's seen-and-heard notes. Fox, who appears in better shape than he was as a UA player from 2001-06, said he's spent most of the past six years since playing professionally, and is now becoming interested in coaching while living in Beaverton, Ore.
Fox said he still stays in touch with former teammates such as Luke Walton, Richard Jefferson, Daniel Dillon, Mohamed Tangara, Andre Iguodala, Hassan Adams and Channing Frye.
"I talk to those guys all the time," Fox said.
Here's the official box score.