Parker Jackson-Cartwright was just trying to will his team to victory.
With 5:57 left in the second half, the 5-foot-10 point guard slithered through the defense and dished a pass to Dusan Ristic, who flipped it up and in to give the 8th-ranked Arizona Wildcats a comfortable nine-point lead against a pesky Northern Colorado team.
“We needed stops and we needed moments in the game,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “And I just tried to do that.”
He tried and succeeded.
In a game that featured 17 lead changes, it was Jackson-Cartwright’s play that finally allowed the Wildcats to pull away en route to a 71-55 victory.
“I can’t say enough about Parker tonight, he was the best player on floor for us,” Sean Miller said.
That assist to Ristic? It was Jackson-Cartwright’s tenth of the game, helping him post his first double-double as a Wildcat, as he ultimately finished with 15 points and a career-high 11 assists.
Not that he was focused on the stat-sheet.
“I had no idea,” Jackson-Cartwright said of the double-double. “I was just out there playing extremely hard for my team.”
Jackson-Cartwright wasn’t sure if that was his best game at Arizona, but his head coach was.
“Tonight was Parker’s best game at Arizona,” Miller declared, “because everything he did was important.”
Indeed, the Wildcats needed every bit of Jackson-Cartwright’s performance.
Arizona trailed by a point at halftime — at home — to a Northern Colorado team that was picked to finish 11th in the Big Sky Conference and entered the game with a 1-2 record.
Yet, there the Bears were, beating the Wildcats 31-30 in McKale Center when the two teams headed for the locker room after the first 20 minutes of play.
Jackson-Cartwright had five assists in the first half, but a goose egg in the scoring column, missing all three of his shot attempts.
Northern Colorado’s zone defense stymied the point guard — well, at least until the second half started. Then everything changed.
Jackson-Cartwright exploded in the final 20 minutes, pouring in all 15 of his points while dishing out six assists to give him 11 for the night.
“I was just ultra-aggressive,” Jackson-Cartwright said.
Ultra-aggressive at penetrating the soft spots of the zone defense, but still careful at the same time. Jackson-Cartwright had just one turnover in the game.
“In the last 60 minutes or so combined against Sacred Heart and Northern Colorado he’s 15 to one assists to turnovers,” Miller said. “15 to one. And that’s excellent. And his 15 points, he got a lot of them against the zone, made great decisions, and it was good to see that.”
Monday’s performance was Jackson-Cartwright’s best game as a Wildcat — at least in Miller’s mind — and the same can be said for Jackson-Cartwright’s junior season as a whole.
The point guard is averaging 10.3 points, 5.8 assists per game, and 4.6 assists for every turnover — all of which are career-highs.
“He’s just more experienced. He’s certainly gotten stronger since he’s gotten here, but what he is is experienced,” Miller said. “He’s learned how to play the game, he knows our system. He’s been in college now for three years, he’s always been someone we trust a lot with the ball in his hands.”
Miller has always trusted Jackson-Cartwright even when he went through ups and downs in his first two seasons with the Wildcats, and at this point, who wouldn’t trust him?
“15 assists to one turnover, I don’t know what coach, especially in the month of November, wouldn’t take that,” Miller said. “He’s so valuable in making the game easier for his teammates. When you’re out there for 60 minutes and you’re playing point guard and the ball’s in his hands as much as it’s in his hands, and you’re 15 assists to one turnover, that’s outstanding.
“He’s really settling in and I’m happy for him because he’s worked really hard.”
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