The Arizona Wildcats got back to their winning ways from earlier this season with a 93-77 home victory over the Utah Utes on Thursday night, ending a two-game skid and improving to 9-1 at McKale Center.
Our full recap can be found here. Below is what coach Sean Miller had to say about the win, which improves Arizona to 12-5 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play.
On bouncing back from losses at Oregon and Oregon State: “I’m really happy with tonight’s victory. One of the hardest things to do is put a couple of tough things, tough moments—losses in our case—behind you. In particular the way the Oregon trip went where the Oregon game is just a heck of a basketball game that didn’t go our way at the very, very, very end. And then Oregon State beat us. Oftentimes, those types of situations will lead into future days and games. I thought we did a good job of learning from it, moving forward, having a couple good days of practice and trying to be the best team that we can be here tonight.”
On the 52-point first half vs. Utah: “I thought in the first half we were excellent, both on defense and on offense. Max Hazzard was a big reason why. It’s great to see him shoot the basketball like we see him shoot it a lot in practice. In fairness to Max, it takes a little time to get comfortable, but my hope is that there are more moments like the segment he had there, both in the first half and in the second half.”
On the second half: “We didn’t play as well, kind of dropped our level of intensity. At the end of the game, they had us 17-6, I think, going into that last media timeout we were up 27 maybe. With our team, there’s so many opportunities to learn, and I think the top of the charts is just sustained effort. It’s hard to win. It’s really difficult to win in conference play. For us, we have to be at our best.”
On playing Saturday afternoon after a Thursday night game: “Now we have a very, very quick turnaround. And for our team, it’ll be one of the first times that we’ve experienced that. And that’s the hardest part about being a freshman. You have no recollection, there’s no ‘I’ve done this before.’ So my hope is that we can, again, kind of learn from this, grow from it and be the most ready we can be for Colorado because I know they’re a very good team.
“Quick turnarounds are a big deal. March Madness is a quick turnaround, (the) Pac-12 tournament is part of March Madness, winning three in three days or four and four days. That’s hard. It’s what’s so rewarding about March. But the Pac-12, along the way, it really prepares you for that. What we experienced in Oregon is the long extended trip, which I think is always more difficult on the road team. You leave on Wednesday and then you get back really early in the morning on Monday. But this quick turnaround is opposite. Tomorrow will be here before you know it and then being able to play at 1230, we have to be the most ready we can be for sure.”
On going 15 of 29 from 3-point range: “Our 3-point shooting, the ball went in. Maybe it’s because we created some shots. Dylan Smith, I thought, really played well. Dylan played very well at Oregon. He did not play as well at Oregon State, and he was a guy that I was interested in seeing because he’s had a couple really good days of practice. He set the tone of a lot of ways, six assists, no turnovers. Offensively he was really giving great effort.”
On rebounding: “I thought Josh Green did a good job. We asked him to try to rebound the ball more. He’s one of those wing players that can help our cause. Him getting five defensive rebounds is a big deal for our team. I’ve talked a lot about rebounding. Tonight it was 38 to 32, we got 12 second shots. When we rebound the ball, that’s when we’re at our best.”
On Stone Gettings’ first start: “Stone, number one, is a winner. He is a great, great kid, very high character. It’s just been very impressive to watch him receive the facial fracture that he got, a bad concussion, and kind of work through that. You really know what a mature person he is to bounce back from that. He hasn’t missed a single play in practice or in a game since he returned back from Christmas. He gives us additional spacing. His line tonight and his numbers weren’t as good, maybe, as I almost thought but you kind of know that he’s going to be ready. He’s older. Getting him in there really complements our team in a big, big way.
“He does have to get a defensive rebound. That’s that kind of carbon monoxide stat. You don’t see it, but it’s, it’s killing our team. He played 28 minutes and one thing he didn’t do is get a defensive rebound. You can’t win in college basketball if you give those teams those second shots. I think at 12:30 on Saturday, that’s one of Colorado’s many strengths. It’ll be interesting to see if we can pass that test because that will be a much different test.”
On if Gettings might have started had Chase Jeter not sat out with back spasms: “We were thinking about it. I think getting players more minutes is step one. I don’t think you want to change the lineup unless that group of five doesn’t give us the best chance to get off to a good start.”
On Jeter’s back: “He had some back pain in our first practice since returning from Oregon. I don’t really have a crystal ball on when he will be able to return. Like we always do, we’re listening to (trainer) Justin Kokoskie and our doctors and making sure that that he’s able to be safe and return to the court. Just like with Stone you have to rely on the athlete as well, especially in a lower back situation.
“I’m only going on what he said. It was kind of a moment in our practice once we returned, really at the very beginning, that he felt his back. He’s had a history of that. He’s not practiced, he’s more in the rehabilitation part of it.”
On when Jeter could return: “I can’t call it. I would tell you if I knew. Every day I think our hope is that he gets a little bit better.”
On Zeke Nnaji’s touches: “We would like to have him right around 20 when you when you combine free throw attempts and field good attempts. I think we’ve come close in all of our Pac-12 games, but I don’t know if we’ve hit that number. Tonight our team did a really good job of getting him the ball.
“One thing about young players, Zeke is no different, he has to learn where to go, how to post up, and sometimes he’s so physical in the post area, that he’s always in a wrestling match. And sometimes he doesn’t need to be in a wrestling match, he can just free himself and just get the catch. A lot of times you coach big guys that, all they want is the catch, and they don’t work hard enough to seal and be physical. Zeke is the opposite. So we’re trying to help him understand that he’s an easier target, sometimes, if he just pulls out of the wrestling match and tries to catch the ball a little further away from the basket.
“Obviously his six turnovers is a head scratcher, because I was bragging on him before our game. He’s had four turnovers in the last maybe 160 minutes that he’s played, which is remarkable. And tonight he kind of evened that out. That’s really the only thing he didn’t do tonight. 24 points, eight rebounds, four on the offensive end, that’s excellent.”
On Ira Lee’s technical foul: “That’s a point of emphasis, the taunting, it’s in college football as well. It’s a fine line, I don’t think Ira meant anything by it. The point I was just trying to make to him is, you do it, you get the dunk, okay. And if you get the technical it negates the two points you just scored, we’re even now. It’s one thing if you’re up big, but if that’s a single-possession game or a tight game, God you just erased a really good play. Ira’s emotional in a good way, he’s a team guy, I’m hoping he’ll learn from it.”
On Colorado: “A lot like Oregon State, Colorado is very, very experienced. They have a couple guys on this year’s team that have been multiple-year starters. McKinley Wright at the point guard position is obviously an excellent college basketball player. And Tyler Bey, I really liked him as far back as when he was a freshman. He’s a junior as well and I think he’s one of the college basketball’s overall best rebounders. They have an experienced group and are having a very good season.”