Pac-12 play got off to a stellar start for the Arizona Wildcats, who cruised to a 75-47 win over rival ASU on Saturday night. It was the fewest points they have allowed to ASU since Jan. 2007, and in addition to ending a two-game skid to the Sun Devils the Wildcats snapped a two-game losing streak dating back to Dec. 14.
Our full recap from the game can be found here. Below is what Arizona coach Sean Miller had to say about the victory.
On ending a two-game losing streak: “I’m very, very proud and happy for our team. We had a tough experience in San Francisco playing St. John’s. All of us just didn’t handle that game, and the holidays that were right around the corner, as best we could. I think it was a real good lesson for our team, that we have to play the right way, we have to play well to win. Winning is incredibly hard, and people have a lot of pride when they play Arizona. To our team’s credit ... we’ve worked hard to be better. We practiced hard, our team’s had a great attitude.
“The three freshmen (starters) ... I thought they all really responded to the things that we’re asking them to do better. You have to keep in mind, there’s seven guys who played in tonight’s game, they weren’t even here a year ago. So some of the things that we’ve gone through in the last couple of months, it makes sense. I probably have done a better job over the break of clarifying roles, something I wished I might have been able to do a little bit earlier. Guys know what to do what’s expected and I think they’re trying to become a better team.
On coming back after a two-week layoff: “I was worried just because we haven’t played a game in a while and we didn’t play well in the last game. It was just great to see our team respond. We’ll take it and we know it’s one of 18 conference games.”
On fouling: “We had several fouls in the second half, that … hurts our team. Sometimes fouling is just weakness. But the fouls that I’m really talking about is just ... not reaching in at the end of the clock. I think one time maybe Dylan (Smith) had an Arizona State player pinned on the sideline and (he should be) just showing your hands and not reaching in. We fouled a lot during our nonconference season and we fouled probably too much tonight.”
On getting the ball to Zeke Nnaji, who took more shots than anyone else: “It’s a big emphasis. The statistics don’t lie. He’s played 13 games, we’ve played against really good teams and Zeke produces. The other thing about him is, he doesn’t shoot it every time he catches it. Some of the best opportunities that we had started just with him catching the ball. Our team is just more aware of doing it, we’re better at it. He’s a very, very good player. Obviously 17 points and 11 rebounds really speaks for themselves. And he got a couple layups didn’t go down.
On Nico Mannion and Josh Green: “Nico, he had seven assists and I thought he played the right way and did a really good job for our team as well. I’d say the same thing about Josh Green. Josh, when ASU pressed us, he made three or four really big shots in great plays in the second half. Against St. John’she was in that similar situation, he didn’t handle it quite as well. That’s what I mean about a young player learning and, and those guys have been very receptive towards the things we’ve asked them to do.”
On Stone Gettings’ return from a concussion and facial fracture: “It was awesome. Stone means a lot to our team because he’s a different style of player. He’s a big guy that’s skilled. He’s one of our hardest workers and he’s a smart player. He’s also not young, he’s in his fifth year, he’s been through several experiences. It’s not easy to have a facial fracture and a concussion like he did and come back from it. I thought it really, during the game, felt different having him back, because he does a lot of good things for our team.”
On defending ASU’s Remy Martin better than last season: “I think we’re aware that he really uses their pick-and-rolls to score. We tried to emphasize stopping the ball. But we probably tried to emphasize the same thing a year ago with very, very low success. We did a better job against him tonight.”
On pushing the pace, even off missed free throws: “We want to play at a fast tempo and we want to push the ball. It makes sense with Nico and with the team that we have. But one of the things that we’ve gone through is, you can play a fast pace and sometimes shoot yourself in the foot taking challenged threes, ignoring somebody that’s very efficient around the post, Zeke. And and I think that it’s up to us to just, if we’re playing fast, to make good decisions. Doesn’t mean you have to shoot quick it means that you just have to take the good early opportunity. But when we didn’t take that tonight, we ran better on offense and we were more balanced. We have a team of guys on offense that can do a lot of things. That’s why a quick shot’s gotta be good one. I think we’ve made a lot of progress in that area over the last couple of weeks. Doing it on the road, that’s our next challenge.”
On Christian Koloko: “Christian just keeps getting better. He switched a couple of their pick and rolls. Man, it’s not a lot of seven-footers that can switch on to a guard and not fall down, let alone be adept to challenging the shot and stopping and turning. He’s very well-coordinated. The best is yet to come regardless of what he does now. I think his future’s incredibly bright. He helped us tonight, made some really big plays when he was in. Like Stone, Christian gives you a little bit of a different look in that he’s a shot blocker. Our other guys aren’t really shot blockers.
On Koloko’s usage going forward: “Our strategy with Christian is to play him every game. Some games I think he’ll have a bigger window than others, but we want to make them a part of every game so he gets comfortable. In the St. John’s game, and in this game, he really helped us.”
On being more aggressive going to the basket: “At halftime, Arizona State had five great blocks. I don’t mean like (on) jump shots or a hook, I mean dunks. The problem was we weren’t really dunking it, we were finger rolling and shooting below the rim. My point is, that’s the ball you dunk if you come here.”