The Arizona Wildcats blew out the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 96-53 on Monday to improve to 3-0 on the season.
Jemarl Baker Jr. had a record-breaking night, dropping 33 points while shooting 12 for 16 from the field and 7 for 9 from 3. That is the most points any UA player has ever scored under Sean Miller.
It spearheaded what was a prolific night offensively for the Wildcats, who shot 67 percent from the field and 59 percent from 3.
Here is the video and transcript of Miller’s postgame press conference.
On Baker’s big night: “It reminded me of that night Gabe (York) had (on Senior Day against Stanford in which he hit nine 3s). It really did. Jemarl got red hot. I thought his teammates did a good job setting screens and recognizing that he’s hot, trying to get him the ball. One thing about it is as a coach and a staff, you learn your team through game experience as well and we probably helped Jemarl all a little bit better than we have as well, recognizing his importance, how he can shoot the ball.
“Jemarl for the two years, year and a half that he’s been here, he’s been as good of a consistent shooter every day as we’ve had. It hasn’t always translated into the games, but it’s hard to be a really consistent shooter when he had the role that he had on last year’s team, although he was a very important role and he was a good player for us, to really get going shooting you need opportunity and he has that on this year’s team. Quite frankly our team needs him, not necessarily to play exactly like he played tonight, but being a guy that plays with great offensive confidence. ... I don’t care who we played tonight or what the score was, the way he moved and shot the ball I think speaks for itself. I was happy for him because there isn’t a better kid, a better player who works hard every day, does things the right way off the court, on the court, great teammate. And it’s nice to see him have the big night that he had tonight.”
On if Jemarl is benefitting from playing off the ball: “Well, he has a bigger role, a bigger opportunity and always when your habits are really good like they are in Jemarl’s case, his work ethic, his love for the game, how he treats his body, I would say physically he’s healthy, and if you just look at him, I’ve seen some of the games that we played last year, his body has really leaned out. He’s right now about 5% body fat and he’s strong in a good way. He’s experienced and I think he’s ready certainly to build on what he did a year ago and be an overall more productive and better player. He was lights out tonight. I mean, there aren’t too many guards who’ve had a game this season already like like he had tonight. I mean, he was terrific.”
On the faster pace and efficient transition offense: “So many times offense starts with getting good defensive plays and stops. A rebound outlet, a blocked shot, a deflection which leads to transition. Because if you can get out in transition those are where the easier shots exist and I thought we really went defense to offense, especially in the first half. When we were in the half court, I thought the ball moved a little easier. Guys were very unselfish. I think that’s evident by 21 assists and we had 12 turnovers. After the last game, I addressed kind of our turnovers and maybe our fouls and I didn’t really mean it towards being critical of the officials or college basketball. I mean, that wasn’t what I meant. In two games before we played tonight, we had 12 offensive fouls. I mean, that’s a lot. Screens off the ball, screens on the ball, catches in the low post where we dipped our shoulder, leaving our feet, guys slide under us, drawing a chart. So we tried to adjust, and then my other point was we have to include some of that on our defense as well, where we can draw charges and get some of those same calls, But I think tonight maybe we had one offensive foul. That’s a big difference between six and I thought that allowed our flow, the way the game felt to be a little bit better.”
On Bennedict Mathurin and Dalen Terry stuffing the stat sheet in many ways: “We really love our our freshman class. Benn and Dalen just get better every day. I don’t think either player has missed a single day of practice, which is quite a testament to their discipline, their resolve and toughness. And keep this in mind on Dalen Terry and Benn, they’re 18 years old. They’re going to play their entire freshman year at 18, so they have a bright future. Tonight, Azuolas (Tubelis) didn’t have his night because he got into really early foul trouble and then he turned his ankle and we didn’t really know how that was. And then when he reemerged in the game, he found out 10 minutes. So, again, these freshmen are freshmen. They’re gonna learn. Sometimes they’re going to play really well and other times, they may not have as good a game as we’d like them to have. But those guys are important to us. You saw Tibet (Görener) get his opportunity here tonight. And he banged two threes. At 6-foot-8, as he gets bigger and stronger down the road, he’s going to be a very good player for us.”
On Jordan Brown’s under-the-radar night: “I’m glad you brought Jordan’s name up. I didn’t realize he was 6 for 6 from the field. 5 for 5 from the foul line. 11 rebounds. 17 points. Heck, I don’t even think I gave him credit after the game. So much was about Jemarl and the great night he had. Jordan came ready to play. He’s adjusted to teams taking the charge in a post and the way the game is as I explained after our last game. We showed him film, we talked to him and tonight he slowed down a couple of times, really let the defense tell him what to do. And when he gets the ball in and around the paint, he’s got a great touch. And so I think two of the first three games he’s played he’s been terrific.”
On Jason Terry’s inconclusive COVID-19 test that forced him to miss Monday’s game: “That’s what it is, it’s inconclusive and I think we have a lot of positive thoughts that he’s fine.”
On Christian Koloko: “Christian is a very young player. He played better tonight than he’s played in the first two games. He didn’t score, but he had the opportunity at four shot blocks. And that’s something that is really important to our team, that he can protect the basket and be able to use that gift. He had four rebounds as well and Christian has rebounded well really in every game that he’s played. Four rebounds in 19 minutes is pretty good. He didn’t get the opportunity to score it, but there’s some games that he might score, others that he doesn’t. But that doesn’t really define whether he plays well. I thought he was more effective with our ball screen defense tonight. A lot like a lot of players on our team he needs game experience. And as he continues to play you’ll improve.”
On the importance of getting Görener, Tautvilas Tubelis, and the walk-ons in the game: “Hey look, our guys have a 6:15 a.m. COVID-19 test tomorrow morning. We have nothing to complain about. Everybody here is grateful that we have a season. We respect our protocols, the doctors, Justin Kokoskie. I don’t know if there’s a trainer in the world who gets up earlier, stays later, cares more about doing things the right way and our players more than Justin Kokoskie. I mean, he’s been the trainer here for almost 20 years. He’s got a real feel and a great way of encouraging our players to stick with it because it’s not easy. They’ve been at this since late August and it’s part of why we’ve made the decision to not travel, so that we’re in a healthy and safe way, and also so that we can gain confidence and improve. So tomorrow brings a new day, we have to have a great day and then we play Bakersfield on Wednesday. So although we weren’t able to play games at the beginning, this stretch is going to really us in a lot of ways and I was glad to see our team play the way we played tonight.”
On the Cal State Bakersfield game coming up Wednesday: “I haven’t watched Bakersfield. It’s hard for me. I really haven’t been able to answer some of the questions you guys have asked only because the obvious is we just came off of Eastern Washington, tried to learn and pay close attention to what we did or didn’t do well in that game, and then simultaneously kind of move to game two. So now we’ll do the same here. We’ll learn from our Northern Arizona performance and we’ll steadily climb towards Bakersfield so that we’re ready. One thing about Rod Barnes’s team, we’ve played them in the past, play great effort. Physical, they play hard. And they’re going to play hard against us on Wednesday, but hopefully we can move towards Wednesday and grow and learn and be better. I thought we improved. Since the Grambling game we’re an overall better team, and I hope we can stay on this track right now that we’re on.”