Now that’s more like it.
After being outmatched by its last two opponents at the Maui Invitational, the Arizona Wildcats (5-2) got back to their winning ways with a surprisingly easy 100-70 win over Georgia Southern on Thursday night. The Eagles (5-2) came in as the top shooting team in the country yet shot only 39.1 percent, far below the rates of Arizona’s three foes in Hawaii.
It was a much-needed confidence booster for Arizona, which now hits the road to play a rising Connecticut team on the other side of the country on Sunday morning. That game is going to be much tougher than this one.
But let’s not think about that. Instead, let’s enjoy this one and point out what was most notable about the Wildcats’ second 30-point win of the season.
When Chase Jeter is open, get him the ball
As Arizona’s only true big man, Jeter is the one guy the Wildcats can’t afford to have a bad night and expect things to go as planned. Just looked at that second-half collapse against Gonzaga, when Arizona was blown out after Jeter let his emotions get the best of him and he fouled out with more than 12 minutes left following a technical.
He’s far from a polished offensive player but Jeter does have some skills when the ball is in his hands. The key is getting it to him, something that hasn’t always been the case this season.
It was against the Eagles, with Jeter scoring a career-high 18 points along with 10 rebounds, his third double-double of the season.
Jeter’s production came on just four field goal attempts, all of which went in, while he was 10 of 12 from the line. In Arizona’s first six games Jeter only made 13 foul shots (on 22 attempts).
Sharing is caring
Among the many issues that arose in Maui was Arizona’s poor ball movement on offense. In losses to Gonzaga and Auburn the Wildcats assisted on just 12 of 41 made field goals, including a paltry 3 of 21 against Gonzaga.
Against Georgia Southern, the Wildcats had 12 assists at halftime and finished with 22 dimes on 35 makes. That’s the most assists for Arizona since recording 25 against UMBC last November.
What was most pleasing to see was the sharing came from everyone. Brandon Williams had six, upping his team-best total to 29 in seven games, but four other Arizona players had at least four assists. That includes Ira Lee, whose four assists were double his career high (and four more than he’d had all season prior to Thursday).
Friends in low places
Arizona didn’t need much from its bench last season, and that group regularly obliged by being mostly non-factors. That can’t be the case with the 2018-19 team, yet in Maui the Wildcats’ reserves managed only 19 points in three games.
The non-starters were a lot more involved against Georgia Southern, so much so they outscored the Eagles’ starting five by 10 points (47-37).
Sean Miller’s decision to start Emmanuel Akot over Ryan Luther only partly impacted this bench explosion. Luther, who injured his non-shooting hand in Maui and played Thursday with several fingers taped up, had eight points on 3-of-5 shooting while Akot didn’t score until garbage time.
Alex Barcello scored a career-high 16 in just 12 minutes of action, with Devonaire Doutrive chipping in a career-best eight points in 11 minutes. Dylan Smith added 10 and Lee had five (along with six rebounds and four assists).