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What Sean Miller said after Arizona upset USC for his 300th win at school

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arizona-wildcats-sean-miller-report-return-2022-contract-ncaa-iarp-investigation-extension-rothstein Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The third time was the charm for the Arizona Wildcats and Sean Miller, who picked up his 300th win in his 12th season at the school on Saturday by beating No. 17 USC on the road.

Our full recap can be found here, while below are Miller’s comments after Arizona knocked off the Pac-12 leaders to improve to 15-8 overall and 9-8 in conference play.

On pulling an upset for his 300th game at Arizona: “My thoughts were, I was just really, really excited for my team, and for our coaching staff. Obviously, it hasn’t been easy, nothing’s been easy. We’ve been in some really tough games recently in which I thought we played hard, played well and just weren’t good enough to leave (with) the victory. Tonight we were able to go from start to finish. I think it says a lot about our group of guys that they continue to fight. We really had to play an outstanding game against obviously a very good, very talented team.”

On if this was like a playoff game for the Wildcats: “Every game down the stretch is kind of like that, truth be told. I think our guys recognized USC has had a great season, (is) competing for the Pac-12 championship. What is that we have to play for? We’re playing for each other. We’re playing for our program. We’re playing for the pride, our love for the game. If we can beat some of these games down the stretch, I just think it gives us something to feel good about, it gives our player something to feel good about. Tonight really goes into this category.”

On finishing 5-4 on the road: “In the Pac-12 we’ve played some very good basketball on the road. We certainly didn’t defend the other night against UCLA. And at Utah, I didn’t think that in that particular performance that we were really locked in and together. But all the other games, win or lose we’ve really played hard, played well. That’s why tonight, being able to actually break through, it’s a way to give everybody a lot of confidence.”

On winning the game at the line in the final six minutes: “I could feel it at the four-minute mark that everyone was still just very unsure, because we’ve been in the situation a number of times this year and it hasn’t always worked out for us. It was good to see us finish the game.”

On James Akinjo: “I think James is having an all-conference season. Statistically, if you look at his numbers, if you look at his meaning towards our team. What he’s slowly getting better at, and I don’t think he always recognizes this himself is, he’s controlling the game better than he once did. You can be a really good player and maybe not have the impact of winning that some other really good players do. Tonight he just controlled everything. He already can score. But it’s just kind of like that extra 10 percent, that know how, the experience and knowledge of how to make plays that are going to allow your team to win. I really feel like he’s made a lot of progress over the last month, the last six weeks.”

On Dalen Terry’s two 3-pointers: “Of all the things that happened today that’s at the top of my list. Nobody’s giving Dalen a lot of sugar right now. He’s had really good moments, he’s important to our team. He’s really important to our future and our program, and we believe in him, I believe in him. The thing that I love about him more than anything else is his attitude. He just keeps showing up. He just keeps working. And it’s been a while since he’s felt a shot go in. But that doesn’t mean he’s quit work early in the mornings, before and after practice. If you’re talented and you just keep working you eventually break through, Our game at Arizona State, he is a big reason that we won that game, because he nailed two threes. And tonight was the same, today was the same. So it’s great to see a young guy who has a great attitude get some well-deserved recognition and make the plays that he made today.”

On outrebounding USC 43-36: “We did not rebound as well as we could have against UCLA. It’s very deceptive because they just didn’t miss in the second half. There were no rebounds to get, but I thought UCLA really set the tone in the first half, because they were 0 for 10 from the 3-point line, which you know they’re not going to continue that, and yet they would now only one point. And why was that? Because they were the tougher team, and they got some really key second shots in the first half, and I thought it set the tone for a lot of things in that game. We really talked (to) our guys, our team, a lot about that. It doesn’t mean that they’re going to respond, but they did. We were much more focused, much better physically. I think Azuolas had 12 rebounds at the half today. If you have 12 rebounds at the half against USC, that’s that’s an extraordinary effort. The rebounding margin is a big reason that we won. Each of us in his teams have our strengths, and in games of meaning, you have to bring your strength to the table. Against Oregon and against UCLA, we weren’t able to benefit, we weren’t able to bring that strength of rebounding to the table and we lost both.”

On being able to bounce back after a loss two days earlier: “You can only do so much in practice right now, get a good, quick turnaround. It’s more about the discipline of being focused, being ready to go, being prepared. Our team was mentally ready to go tonight, we were prepared. Even if we would not have won the game, that’s how I felt watching the game. What’s really difficult, is to lose the first game, and learn from it, put it behind you to bounce back and get that second game, especially when you’re on the road here in LA. I really credit our coaching staff and our players for really being able to bounce back and do that.”

On Christian Koloko’s rough night: “I love Christian. Man, he’s one of our hardest workers, he’s improved and he’s really important to our team. But we’ve addressed that with him. He’s a great kid. He gets frustrated with fouls, like a lot of big guys do, (he) doesn’t feel like he’s getting the call, or the calls are not made right and he reacts. We talked to him a lot about that last year, especially down the stretch, we’ve addressed it this year. And he’s got to learn from it, that’s not a good play. I don’t mean this in any other way but, like, I got the officials. I’m the coach. We’ll address it, but we’re fortunate because it’s plays like that, that oftentimes turns the tide of the game We played through, we bounced back so I’m glad that that happened.”

On Azuolas Tubelis’ two great games against USC: “He’s just more at ease against froncourt players, even if they’re great players, because he’s very good himself. Where we’ve struggled with matchups is forcing and really asking him to guard wings and smaller forwards, a skilled player. That’s difficult for a 19-year-old freshman. I think that’s one of the things that’s really developing in him as a player, is that defensively we’re asking him to do so many different things in our offense. Sometimes he’s being guarded by smaller quick players, sometimes he’s being guarded by bigger guys. And every time that he plays, I think he gets more and more comfortable. He had a really good game.”

On Jordan Brown’s performance off the bench: “I thought Jordan Brown, this was one of his overall best games as well. You think about Christian having found trouble while playing 10 minutes and fouling out, somebody had to really step up. I thought it was a one-two punch. It was Jordan Brown and Azuolas that both did a great job inside.”

On what Brown has to do to make this a regular thing: “He just has to get older, he has to get experience, more experience. Jordan, by the standards of the game, isn’t a very experienced player. His freshman year at Nevada, although he had a role, he was on a very veteran team and his role wasn’t great. A year ago, although he practiced with us, he never played in a game last year. And then COVID affected him about as much as anybody. Not only does he not play for an entire year, but we didn’t see him until August. The last time I saw him was in early March, and then next time I saw him was in August. We didn’t have that opportunity to keep working, so this is his real first year of playing college. He’s had some great moments. He’ll keep getting smarter on the court, he will keep getting better. As you know, he can really score with his back to the basket. Now rebounding, being a better defender, just learning (to) being a better passer. JB is a really unselfish guy, but sometimes he’s into his move and he doesn’t recognize the pass out. He’s starting to do that a little bit, so I just think that experience, a great offseason, more games, and I think you’ll continue to see a more polished, more improved, ust a better overall player in Jordan.”

On why he told the broadcast crew he was confident in his team entering the game: “I just feel like I have a good pulse of our guys. We were disappointed in how we performed against UCLA, especially in high effort department. We addressed it, and I felt like we would be ready.”

On if the Oregon game will be made up or next weekend is the end of the season: “We really don’t know. I mean we’re approaching it that we have two games left on our schedule, maybe something will change this week. But that’s how we’re approaching it.”