It’s rivalry week for the second time this month for the Arizona Wildcats, who are headed to Tempe on Saturday for a matchup with ASU. The first matchup was a great one for the UA, which won 75-47 on Jan. 4 to open Pac-12 play.
Coach Sean Miller discussed the rematch with the Sun Devils and several other topics during his weekly press conference:
On looking back at the first ASU game: “We had a long stretch of practice before the last game and our team was really focused. It really led into a good performance in the game. Our rebounding was in place, and I think that’s where it starts for us. When we’re a good rebounding team, do a great job as a group … that’s a big stat for us. That will be just as important for us on Saturday night.”
On preparing for the rematch: “We play these guys twice in a short period of time. We’ll try to do the best we can this week of preparing for Arizona State, obviously, but maybe getting in an additional day of rest and recovery. And maybe spending one extra day with attention to Arizona, what are the things that we need to continue to develop. We’ve had a good week so far. We’re not there yet.”
On ASU’s Rob Edwards: “We have a lot of respect for him. He had a really good season a year ago, and I think in both games impacted our game when we played them a year ago. He’s a tremendous shooter, he’s bigger, he’s more of a wing player than a guard, he’s got size. In transition he can really make shots, and when he’s playing with confidence, adding to their scoring punch, he’s a real difference maker with their team.”
On ASU’s Romello White: “Romello White. He’s much improved from where he would have been a year ago, he’s been a big factor in their success. He’s in his third year. He had a really good freshman year, a solid sophomore year and having a great junior year. He’s a big guy, a double-figure scorer, he’s a terrific offensive rebounder. Runs the court really, really well. I think they’re more aware of trying to get the ball to him in the low post because good things when he gets it there.
“Edwards and White, we have to do a really good job on those guys.”
On ASU’s Remy Martin: “He’s a given, I look at him as, game in and game, out he’s going to impact the game the way he plays. He does it on defense. He rebounds the ball for a guard really well. He makes and takes big shots in big moments, he’s always involved. He not only gets his own shot but he creates quality shots for his teammates. I think he’s ASU’s heart and soul for sure. He’s super, super aggressive. What I love about him is, I think he’s a great competitor.”
On avoiding turnovers: “Transition is so big, when you run good offense and take care of the ball, the other team just doesn’t get the easy one against your team. That’s one of our strengths this year, taking care of the ball, being able to play in that game with 10 or few turnovers. Being good on offense, taking really good shots, and simultaneously really valuing the ball. Going long stretches where we don’t turn it over because we’re capable of doing that.”
On rebounding: “Rebounding is big for us, because defensive rebounding triggers our best offense. And just generally speaking, you give up second shots it breaks your backs. It leads to dunks, and-ones, three-point plays, puts fouls on your key players. By the way, you made them miss but you didn’t get any value from it.”
On playing on the road: “Winning on the road in college basketball is very difficult, it always has been. It usually crowns the conference champion and separates maybe a fair season from a good one. Or instead of having a good one you have a great one. Our team is well aware that we really haven’t broken through in our road games. In fairness to us, we’ve certainly played some tough ones on the road, and we’ve been in single-possession games … at Oregon and at Baylor. Looking at us moving forward, the more we do it the more comfortable we get. It’s not just the fact we’re playing ASU, a conference road game is next up for us. It’s a challenge and we have to be ready.
“Like I mentioned after the Oregon trip, this year’s team, our team, we have to play well, we have to overcome a good performance. We’re not going to overcome inadequate or poor play from individuals or an area of the game and come out in the winner’s circle. That’s our focus, how well we can play.”
On Nico Mannion and Josh Green playing in Phoenix: “It’s always a big game playing on the road in our conference, especially up there in Phoenix. But those guys have been in a lot of big games. Now they enter that phase as a freshman where they’ve started 18 games, they’ve been at this since early October. We’re almost four months deep. At some point you look at them as, they’re freshmen but they’re different types of freshmen.”
On when freshmen are no longer considered freshmen: “Right now, I think. We’re about 70 practices in, 18 games. People maybe look at the third week of January as maybe the midpoint of games, but add in practices and we’re more than halfway. Right about now you settle in.”
On Chase Jeter’s status: “We’re starting to implement him back, non-contact first, then he moves toward actual practice. I really don’t know if he would be able to play, if he’s able to play how much he’d play. Where’s he at, we’re taking it one day at a time.”
On Dylan Smith being consistent: “That’s what we want from Dylan is consistency. He doesn’t have to score 26 points and make six threes for us to say he played well. I thought his play over the weekend was a big reason why our team played well. When he takes what the defense gives … Dylan’s percentage speaks for itself as a shooter. You give him an open look. Right now through our 18 games he’s maybe our most consistent 3-point shooter.
“I think if he’s not our overall best defender he’s one of two. When he’s solid it becomes contagious, it helps other people be solid on defense. You talk about experience, there’s nobody on our team that’s more experienced than Dylan. He’s an important part of what we do, and we want him to be solid. This is the best season that he’s had at Arizona. He’s shooting 43 percent from three, with 31 makes. That’s impressive. He has 24 turnovers in 18 games, think about that. He’s really cut back on that. Defensively it’s so important that he’s locked in on his assignment.”
On Stone Gettings: “I think Stone has to settle in just a little bit. He wants it badly. He’s an important part of our team. The fact he started the last two games, sometimes that’s a bit of adjustment to be in there at the very beginning of each half. Just slow down and take what the defense gives, get more used to being in that role that he currently has. When Stone’s in the game it gives us more space on drives. Stone competes on defense, he really does, but I think production-wise we need a little bit more from him.
On Ira Lee: “Ira deserves more of an opportunity, especially based on his recent performances.”
On taking in the Suns/Pacers game on Wednesday: “I was really happy to do it. It was great to see both Deandre (Ayton) and TJ (McConnell). TJ got the win and at times he might have been one of the best players on the court. It’s just great to see him have such a positive impact as an NBA player, I know the Pacers really, really love him. He’s had a pretty good five years. He may have outperformed his contracts better than any player in the last four or five years. He clearly has a command of the court when he’s in the game.”