It’s been a couple of pretty good games for Sean Miller & Co. At least the numbers say so. In his time at Arizona, Miller has yet to lose to Stanford in 13 games. On Thursday night, Miller knocked off Utah for the 10th time in 11 games with a 66-56 win in McKale Center.
That’s a heck of stretch for a coach in his eighth season at Arizona.
Thursday night, he thanked the crowd and the second half defense his team showed. He can also thank the team outrebounding Utah 38-27 and limiting the Utes to two free throws on four attempts. Conversely, UA went to the line 17 times and hit 14.
And in the first half, Miller said his team was getting 50 percent of its misses back, which led to a nice rebounding difference.
“If you get 50 percent of your misses back that’s domination,” Miller said.
On Thursday, the numbers didn’t lie.
With that, here are three things Arizona looked pretty good at in winning its third Pac-12 game of the season. UA is now 14-2 and 3-0 in conference.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright is a waterbug
If anything, he sure is a pest. He was Thursday in as much as he had nine assists with no turnovers. He added two steals and four points. For the second time in three games, Miller said UA wouldn’t have won the game had it not been for PJC.
He looked as aggressive as he’s ever been – at least this season. This was his third game back from a high-ankle sprain.
“Coach always has confidence in me,” PJC said. “He just told me to be aggressive. My teammates trust me. While I was out, the team was playing well and I didn’t want to stop that flow. Every day in practice, our practices are so competitive. If you’re not playing hard, you’ll be getting exposed. Practice has really held me be aggressive in games.”
Miller said had it not been Jackson-Cartwright’s high-ankle sprain, PJC would have been well on his way to having a great season.
“He was playing great defense for us learning the new role,” Miller said. “Then he went down. If he would have been healthy, you’d have seen this more. We see this every day.”
And yet, PJC isn’t 100 percent healthy. He said he’s still limited but is having trouble with cutting.
Teammate Dusan Ristic said he’s glad to have PJC back and that it felt more like 15 assists than just nine. Miller said that, too, or at least double-digit assists.
“With Parker coming back, we get a new dimension to our game,” Ristic said. “We move the ball much better with Parker. I’m happy Parker is back and he makes our team much better.”
Defense didn’t rest
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said Arizona wanted it more when it came to loose balls and 50-50 balls. Arizona got to them and his team didn’t.
Miller called his team’s defense a bit “Jekyll & Hyde” meaning it looked good in the second half and there were some issues in the first half.
He did feel UA “got some big stops” when it had to but it couldn’t have gotten more. Utah also missed a number of good opportunities when it had a chance. Kystkowiak pointed that out, too. Arizona limited Utah to 36.4 percent shooting in the second half. And, Utah had 56 points.
Utah was just 3 for 14 from the 3-point line.
“I’m happy with our effort,” he said. “They scored 29 points (in the second half) and that was good.”
What’s up with Ristic?
Here are Ristic’s numbers the last five games. Eighteen points, eight points, 16, 16 and 18 points. He’s never seen a stretch like this since he arrived three years ago. He said he’s not doing anything differently but good things are happening.
“I have just kept doing what I have the last three years,” he said. “Coach Miller mentioned that getting the starting role at the beginning of the season may have put some pressure. After the first few games, I was getting my full confidence and from that point on, I jus kept playing like I can.”
Miller said the obvious, “Dusan is really good on offense right now. When we get him the ball good things are happening.”
Miller added Ristic had the best pass of the night, skipping a pass to Rawle Alkins.
“There’s isn’t a better kid that’s playing college basketball than him,” Miller said.
He may have had an emotional motivation. Miller announced Ristic’s grandfather passed away earlier in the day.
Thank you to everyone sending their condolences about my grandfather. I will miss him greatly. I would like to dedicate this win to him.