Bennedict Mathurin led the Wildcats with career highs in points (24) and rebounds (11) while Terrell Brown Jr., who finished with 15 points, made the game-tying layup that forced double OT and banked in the game-winning 3 just a few moments later.
UA head coach Sean Miller did not speak to the media afterwards, but first-year assistant coach Jason Terry did. Here’s the video and transcript of his interview.
Terry’s overall impressions from the win: “Well first of all, I’m just very proud of our guys. From one to the guys on the bench, to our staff. I mean, this is the first game all season where we really faced some true, real adversity in a game. Give Washington State credit. They were 8-0 coming into this thing, and they proved the reason why. They beat the teams on their schedule, right? We were another one and we were primed to be beat tonight. We did not shoot the ball well. Defensively, we fouled a little bit too much. I just thought our guys remained resilient. There was a couple timeouts where there was some indecision creeping in, but Coach (Miller) came in and showed you why he’s one of the greatest coaches to ever step foot on the Arizona campus, because he calmed us down. He got us back out. We went out and executed on the offensive and defensive end, and we came away victorious tonight. So just all around resiliency from everyone involved.”
On Arizona’s growing chemistry: “Games like this, again when you’re going through adversity out there on the floor and it might not be your night, our guys are still tight and tied together. You’re still cheering for each other, you’re still doing the things that you were taught in practice to kind of stick together, execute. It builds chemistry. And I think in blowout games you don’t get that same type of feeling, but in games like this, overtime basketball games on the road in the Pac-12, is where you build that bond. I think our guys have done a great job all season long of supporting each other, bench included. And I think it showed up tonight. When we needed each other most, we were tied together.”
On Azuolas Tubelis and Ben Mathurin’s development: “Well, we kind of talked about as a staff and we said, ‘how we perform as a team this year will be on the growth and development of our freshman players.’ Dalen (Terry) has been starting for a while. Azuolas has been thrusted in the lineup here the last three, four games, and Benn has been playing quality minutes. Now in those minutes, these guys have been very productive and I think that’s the thing you look to see. Even though they make mistakes, as you will when you’re a freshman, they’ve played through the ultimate stakes, they’ve stay confident, they’ve trusted their training, and they produced very well for us tonight. I mean, look at Benn. Benn stepped up and made two big free throws at the end. He hit big shots, and he’s playing efficiently. So, we like where they’re at now in their development, but there’s so much more room for them to grow and develop.”
On the team’s improvement at the free throw line: “Well look, tonight at the line we were 25 for 32 and again none other than those big free throws at the end by Benn Mathurin. Huge. But it’s an emphasis right? It’s an emphasis that coach put on. We have a free throw program. A lot of schools, a lot of NBA teams have shooting programs. But here in Arizona, we have a free throw program. So we take pride in making free throws, because I go back to grade school, it’s layups and free throws. If you make a fair share of those, you’ll put yourself in a position to win games, especially games like tonight, where you don’t particularly shoot the ball well. Five for 22 from the 3-point line. What saves you, you go 25 for 32 from the free throw line, and we pride ourself in that.”
On Terrell Brown Jr.’s play: “I’ve been watching this kid since he was in junior high make and take big shots and make big plays. He’s just a winning basketball player. And tonight I got to be honest with you, I don’t know if you shared this with you already, he’s playing with a heavy heart. His grandfather passed away before the Washington game, and he said he dedicated this one to his grandpa. The basketball gods and his grandpa was on our side tonight when he banked in that big 3. But he plays some big minutes. I’m looking now, 37 minutes played tonight. Five for 13, he had 15 points, and none other than that big 3-point shot that he had there to kind of seal the victory for us.”
On Terry’s relationship with Brown Jr.’s grandfather, who recently passed away: “My connection is with Terrell’s actual biological father and I know his grandfather just by early on when his dad used to pick me up and take me to school. I always speak to him and say ‘hey, how you doing Mr Brown?’ So, good dude, man. Cared about family. Family was huge to him. He’s just a guy that always had a smile on his face. He faced some adversities here with his health of late. We’re glad now that he can be resting peacefully, and he’s in no more pain.”
On whether Terry has played games facing similar adversity: “Many times...but it’s something about athletes, when you come into your space on that court, in between those squared lines, it is your sanctuary. And then when you’re playing with a heavy heart as Terrell was tonight, special things tend to happen, and I’ve had those moments throughout my career.”
On how Arizona was able to rally around Brown Jr.: “It shows you how tight knit we are as a family. When you talk about A Player’s Program it really truly means that we are a brotherhood and we’re tight and we stick together through any type of adversity.”