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What Sean Miller said after Arizona’s easy win over Cal

arizona-wildcats-sean-miller-cal-press-conference-energy-akinjo-stanford-kriisa Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images,

The Arizona Wildcats had little trouble with the California Golden Bears on Saturday afternoon, leading from the start in a 70-51 win at McKale Center.

Our full recap can be found here, while below are coach Sean Miller’s thoughts on the victory:

Sean Miller post Cal

Hear what Sean Miller said after Arizona's blowout win vs. Cal

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, January 30, 2021

On James Akinjo: “I thought this was James’ best game since he’s been with us here at Arizona. Eight assists and zero turnovers from the point guard position, that means that you’re in total command of the game, and you’re making your teammates better. But he also was 7 for 14 from the floor, 20 points, and I thought he really defended, on and off ball, played (with) a lot of energy. I think James is becoming an all-conference player. He was really, really good tonight. He was one of many guys that responded, and I thought really bounced back from our Stanford loss, and it was great to see him lead the charge tonight.”

On rebounding from Thursday’s loss to Stanford: “None of us really felt good about how we played in that game, and Stanford deserves a ton of credit for how we did play, but we weren’t the together, hard-playing, unselfish group that this team has been throughout the year. We let our guard down. Not sure why or how it happened, but we just were not good in those areas. With the way our team is, the way the Pac-12 is, if we’re not at our best we’re not going to be very good. But, I think, on the contrary, when we are really playing together as a team, playing both sides, defense (and) offense, I believe that we have the ability to beat any team on our schedule. Tonight was one of our best performances and I thought James led the way. We picked the wrong game to not be good in those areas, and we’ve addressed that we talked about it. And I thought that today, regardless of what the final score (was), we were just overall much better, and looked more like ourselves.”

On the grind of having played 4 Pac-12 games in 10 days. “It’s not just four games in 10 days, it’s playing your rival in the Pac-12, two times in four or five days. That’s very, very hard, a lot of emotion, a lot of energy that you give to being ready for those games, especially the way the first game was played and how it ended, how it takes its toll out of you. For us, on the heels of that, having Benn Mathurin go down, it’s hard. Benn is a very talented young player, and we would not have played him against Stanford if he would have put himself at further risk. But when you don’t practice, you don’t go through shootaround for a large period of time, none of us really felt he would be able to play, including himself, and then he plays. There’s some things that are gonna happen in that game that aren’t going to give you a good feeling. So we have that as part of this four games in 10 days. But I’m happy for our guys, proud of us that we bounced back. We really need some time, we need some time away, our guys need to rest. Terrell Brown and James Akinjo are playing a ton of minutes, practicing every day, and I think it’s really going to be good that we don’t play our next game until Thursday.”

On what he discussed with his players after the win: “We have a big trip coming up. I think it’s A, to encourage our guys to stick with their COVID protocols, it’s still out there. We’ve been able to get to the end of January here, just making solid decisions, and then really making sure that everybody understands, winning on the road, playing (the Rocky Mountain) trip where you have two flights, is not easy. I think the final part is just to kind of review the team we were against Stanford, and the same group went back out here today, and some of the things that I thought we did better. That’s how we have to be. That’s how we have to be moving forward.”

On why he told the Pac-12 broadcasters he thought this was the most important game of the season: “The reason is because of really how I think we all felt, but especially how I felt, leaving the Stanford game. We had a lead under the 8-minute media timeout of five points. And we went out there and we just got smashed. We just broke down, we gave in. We just had a kind of a selfishness about us across the board. It’s not gonna allow our team to be successful. Keep in mind, we have a lot of young players a lot of new faces. You could have the greatest team chemistry and the best team in the country there’s going to be those weeks, those games, where things happen and I think it’s more about how you handle it, how you can bounce back, how you can address it when those things happen, so that they don’t happen again. Or we can fix some of the things that that we saw. I didn’t know how this would go, on top of that this is our fourth game in 10 days. I didn’t think we had the energy the other night, but we did have the energy tonight. So what does that tell you? It probably tells you that we were guilty of some of these things that I’m referring to as opposed to we were just too tired. We had enough. We just didn’t get the job done.”

On if he needs to keep getting on his team to stay focused: “Our guys have a really good attitude, it’s just nobody really understands how hard a season is. Even the teams that we’ve had that have won the Pac-12 or had an opportunity to compete for that season’s national championship, there’s going to be injuries. We had a team that I think was 23-0 and Brandon Ashley broke his foot. We had to move to the next game, we had to be able to bounce back and kind of redefine ourselves. There’s tough losses that happen, and so much of it is to not allow it to continue, to be able to put it behind you, learn. And that doesn’t mean you’re going to win the next game, but I think everybody wants the team that they’re a part of to play against one team. And that’s our opponent, not to play against ourselves and our opponent. Having unselfishness, being together on practice, being diligent with scouting, really making sure that we execute what we’re supposed to, we have to do those things to win. We’re not walking out there to jump ball and overwhelming anybody on our schedule. We have to do things collectively the right way, and defensively there have been a number of times this season where our defense really let us down. And we can’t let that happen, we have to keep improving on defense.”

On not overworking the team during practice ahead of the next road trip: “We’re smart with that. The good news is they have the rest of tonight (off). The other part about our schedule is, when you play a 9 pm game. I mean it’s just, it’s incredible when everybody gets home. That Monday game against ASU was a very difficult game. We’ll be able to take tomorrow off, we’ll be smart on Monday and Kerr will be able to practice and start to look at him a little differently because we’re able to play him in games. Hopefully Benn and Jordan Brown both continue to get closer to 100 percent.”