The last time the Arizona Wildcats played at McKale Center they shot worse than in any other game in the arena’s 47-year history. But that’s all a distant memory after they rolled to an 89-63 win over the Oregon State Beavers on Thursday night for their third consecutive win.
Our full recap of the game can be found here, while coach Sean Miller’s postgame comments are transcribed below.
On avenging the earlier loss to Oregon State: “We had an all-around good performance tonight, obviously against a team that beat us on their home court. It’s great to see our guys come out ready. I thought we had a lot of energy. We won as a team, and had a lot of contributions from really everybody that played in the game. The fact that we ended 10 for 21 from three is big. We have stretches where we don’t make them. Some of them are good shots, but to see Nico (Mannion) make one and Josh (Green) hit a couple. Max (Hazzard) hit a ton of them. It was really good to see and I think that helps our team.”
On Josh Green’s stat-stuffing night: “Josh Green was outstanding. It’s great to see him contribute in so many different ways. He got off to a great start and really played well throughout the game.”
On Green’s play in transition and if he’s the best in that area that Miller has coached: “Nobody that is more explosive than him. Josh can do it a lot of ways, he can do it with the ball, he can do it running wide. He’s had some of our best passes in transition this year. He’s not always the recipient. Sometimes he’s the giver. He’s the player that makes the clever play. No doubt when the game gets going fast Josh is really at ease. That’s when he’s at his best. He really pushed the ball early in the game tonight, and that’s a big reason he had such a big game.”
On the key stats: “We had eight turnovers, which we continue to do a great job of playing with single-digit (turnovers) and that’s not easy to do. We forced 21 and uncharacteristically Oregon State turned the ball over more than they normally do. Twenty-one turnovers for them, eight for us is a big, big difference in the game. And then they do as good of a job getting to the free throw line as anybody we play against. They shot 15 free throws, we shot 28, but it was about our aggressiveness. The ball got in and around the basket a number of times. In those two areas, we did a really good job.”
On Tres Tinkle’s ejection: “We’ve competed against him for four years. He is one of the best competitors that I have coached against in the time that I’ve been at Arizona here the Pac-10, Pac-12. He’s a complete player. He has done as much for his team in multiple years as maybe any player that’s ever played the Pac-10 or Pac-12. He’s carried them. He does it on the glass. He plays the four, he plays the three. He shoots threes. He’s incredibly smart, is a really good defensive player. I know statistically, he’s going to go down as one of the all-time great players not only at Oregon State but in the Pac-12.
“It’s unfortunate that he had to exit the game on that play. I don’t look at that as a cheap shot in any way, shape or form. It is what it is. He might have connected above the shoulders, but I know he’s a great kid, a high-character guy. I’m not saying this because his dad’s the coach, but I think it’s even harder to be a great player when your dad’s a coach. It’s not an advantage, many times it’s a disadvantage. He is a monster player. He’s a first-team all-Pac 12 last year, this year, and I’m just really glad that he’s not going to be playing against us next year.
“Him and Payton Pritchard, it feels like they played against us 20 times. For Tres, I know he probably feels bad, but he shouldn’t.”
On if the call was right: “If you played this game, things happen quickly. And Jemarl was actually in his space. Sometimes that happens. Back in the day that would have been a common move. In today’s game with the rules, that’s how it needs to be called and it was called. But I want to make sure that (Tinkle’s) career against Arizona doesn’t end that way, it ends by by how it should, and that is that me as the coach that’s coached against him every time knows that he is a terrific, terrific player and he’s going to go on and make a lot of money playing this game as a pro.
“It’s tough when you’re guarding the ball, and the guy has not dribbled. If you’re really up tight, which (is how) a lot of teams do it, the offensive player can can like swim his arms and sometimes unintentionally, you can connect. The way the game is called and the rules—I didn’t see the play other than live action—I don’t want to make too much of it. If you’ve ever played this game, I mean, things happen so fast. So the referees made the call and whether you agree or disagree, I think they tried to enforce the rule as it is. And unfortunately a really, really classy kid and a really terrific player had to leave the game and be ejected. I hate to be the storyline.”
On starting fast: “The first four minutes of the game, the first four minutes of the second half are tone-setters. We pick our five best players that play the best together that can give us the best chance to be successful, right? I mean, that’s why a starting lineup is so important. You want to be good in those two segments and tonight we were good in both, the first four minutes of the game and and even the first four minutes of the second half which, at times, we have struggled (with). We talked a lot about that for this game. Our guys responded.”
On Christian Koloko: “He keeps getting better. His shot blocks, he had three in 10 minutes. We’re trying to inch his minutes up, get him closer to double figures or 12 minutes. Boy, I’ll tell you, he comes in and he’s just different. The same shots that (teams) seem to be able to get around the basket and go in sometimes, they’re eliminated with him. The other thing is, Christian, because we coach him every day in practice, Christian has good hands. As he gets stronger he’s going to be fine in the post. In my mind if we’re playing better as a team he’s a big part of the solution.”
On getting momentum and keeping it: “Confidence comes with momentum. If you make shots, if you play, if you win I think it feels good. But as you know, by our team, we haven’t always handled when things have gone well. We’ve talked a lot about that. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to change.”
On Saturday’s matchup with Oregon: “The game on Saturday is like March Madness. It’s a late-season game. Oregon, their program speaks for itself, I think they’re the preseason favorite to win the conference. They got an outstanding team and coach. They’ve been in the winner’s circle, and they’ve played well against us in McKale. We have to be ready. Last time that we went from a Thursday win (at home) to a Saturday game was USC to UCLA, and UCLA took it us. We have to play with everything we have.
“The teams that can play the best at this time of year, great things happen for them. We want to be that team.”
On Oregon senior guard Payton Pritchard: “Payton is an outstanding player. He’s the heart and soul for Oregon. The fans at Oregon and their program and the fans at Oregon State and their program, I hope they appreciate how good those guys have been for four years, how many games their respective teams have won. They just really represented their programs, their families. They’re really good players too. They’re they’re hard to play against.”
On Oregon’s play late in the season: “They always seem to me to hit their stride in late February, early March. They did last year, they had a great conference tournament, really got themselves in the NCAA Tournament through through that way. But we can’t control them, we have to be ready. And we have to take care of the ball. Oregon, when they turn you over and get key shot blocks, they really benefit tremendously. We’re going to have to be able to guard some really talented players off the dribble. We’re getting better in that area but we’ll be challenged again on Saturday.”
On Dylan Smith fouling out: “Looking back at our Cal and Stanford trip, Dylan Smith was really, really good. Not just on offense, but on defense. He played like a senior. He made big plays, he was consistent. He got in foul trouble tonight and wasn’t able to have the same type of game. Dylan on Saturday is a really big deal. He has to play well, and we need everybody. Ira didn’t play as much tonight, but we need Ira to play well. If you follow us closely, when Ira (Lee) comes in with Christian and gives us energy off the bench, we seem to be a better team. That’s really what we’re going to try to do is get contributions from everybody and really play a great game on Saturday. I think that’s what it’s going to take to beat Oregon.”
On looking upset after calling a timeout during the first half: “We didn’t know who we were guarding. Those are November mistakes, you don’t make that mistake in February. That’s the plane that up beating you. It’s not the last play in the game it’s every play. There’s no excuse for five players to not know who we have. Two of (Jarod) Lucas’ 3-point shots came because we didn’t identify the players that we were guarding. It’s not one player’s fault, it’s everybody’s fault. At Oregon State we gave up four backdoor passes that led to fouls or scores. Four. Tonight we gave them zero. They scored, I think, five (or) seven points under out of bounds against us. Tonight they scored zero. They miss a free throw, we can’t allow them to get offensive rebound.
“It’s the little things at this time of year that mean more because every team is kind of the best version of themselves. You have a lot of players and teams that are playing for a lot, playing their heart out. And it’s those mistakes that we make, that a lot of times come back to haunt us. If we make that mistake on Saturday, and we give (Oregon) six points because we don’t know where to guarding, I mean, it’s gonna be hard to beat Oregon. I’m going to hold the bar incredibly high in those areas, because that’s things that we can control. That’s being a well-prepared team that’s not going to beat themselves. That’s really what that was about.”