HONOLULU – More so than many Diamond Head Classic teams, the Arizona Wildcats have minimized sightseeing and off-court activities during their long weekend in Hawaii.
“It’s been all business,” UA freshman Brandon Ashley said earlier this weekend. “Not a vacation or anything like that. We’re trying to come out there and get some wins and send a message to the country.”
And have their fun on the court.
With crushing performances on the boards and beyond the arc, Arizona cruised to a 69-50 win over what was a fast-rising Miami team in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic on Sunday.
The win moved fourth-ranked Arizona to 11-0 and into the Diamond Head Classic final against San Diego State on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Miami (8-2) will face Indiana State in the third-place game.
The Wildcats outrebounded Miami 46-20 and hit 8 of 18 three-pointers, with a 6-of-10 performance in the first half, all while negating their usual turnover problems.
Arizona had 18 turnovers in a first-round game with East Tennessee State on Saturday, and they had four in the first five minutes Sunday.
Arizona coach Sean Miller had been concerned about ballhandling after the Wildcats coughed up 17 turnovers against Oral Roberts last Tuesday and the 18 against ETSU.
“It’s disappointing when you’re this far along and in a tournament like this – and we can’t play without turning the ball over,” Miller said after the Wildcats beat ETSU. “If we keep doing it, we’re not going to win. It’s amazing that we’re 10-0 with our inability to handle the ball. We’re averaging 15 a game and that’s a lot for a good team.
"Generally, the teams that I coach average 12 and there’s a huge difference between 15 turnovers a game and 12.”
Miller also said Saturday that “it’s difficult to win” when your point guards have nine turnovers, as Lyons and Mayes did Saturday. But Lyons had just three turnovers to four assists Sunday and Mayes had one turnover.
Besides, the Wildcats found other ways to win. Kaleb Tarczewski led the way on the boards for Arizona with 13 rebounds while he also had eight points.
Mark Lyons led UA in scoring with 19 points and four assists, while Nick Jonson had 12 points and Kevin Parrom had 11.
Kenny Kadji led Miami with 19 points.
Arizona expanded a 12-point halftime lead to 53-37 eight minutes into the second half after Kevin Parrom answered Shane Larkin’s three-pointer with one of his own.
Arizona hit 51.9 percent of its field goals over the first eight minutes of the second half, and the game was not close after that point.
In the first half, Arizona used rebounding and hot three-point shooting to go on a 20-6 run late in the first half and take a 37-25 halftime lead.
The Wildcats made 6 of 11 three-pointers and had at least one from five different players, while making 51.9 percent of their shots overall. They also outrebounded Miami 21-8 before halftime.
The shooting helped offset eight UA turnovers in the first half, though Lyons had three assists and no turnovers.
Lyons led the Wildcats in first half scoring with 10 points, making 2 of 4 threes,while Nick Johnson added eight and Kevin Parrom had seven.
Big man Kenny Kadji led Miami with 13 points.
The Wildcats started the game ominously with four turnovers and four fouls in the first five minutes, with two fouls by Ashley, the team’s best player on Saturday against East Tennessee State.
But UA still led 5-4 at that point and never trailed by more than two points in the first half.