There’s nothing like having a team like Georgia Southern come into McKale Center to help make things right again.
That’s what it did to have the Eagles in the 520 in a game Arizona might as well have scored area-code numbers.
Instead, it was a 100-70 win to help the Wildcats get back to winning.
Every UA player who played – but one – scored in what turned out to be a team-effort win.
Five players scored in double figures with center Chase Jeter leading the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He went 4 for 4 from the floor and hit 10 of 12 free throws.
“Chase has been solid for us this entire season,” said UA coach Sean Miller, admitting that semifinal game when he was tossed for his fifth foul wasn’t his best moment. “(But) he’s been really consistent. He rebounds and shoots a high percentage.”
It was made-to-order for UA. Perhaps more importantly – and impressively – Arizona’s bench was impressive enough to score 47 points after not looking all that good in Maui.
“Our bench was terrific,” Miller said. “We’re not going to get this type of production from them every night, but it shows we have a lot of different players who can come into the game and contribute.”
Was UA’s bench performance in Maui an aberration?
“I don’t know if it was an aberration, but the competition was stiffer than what it was tonight,” Miller said. “you can’t judge a team … you certainly can’t judge young players in a new group. It’s going to take time, going to take more games, more practices. We’re going to be a much more finished product as we head towards Christmas than the last few days of November.”
It’s why Miller was glad they went to Maui and found out many things about his team. So what if his team didn’t win it all or came back 1-2. Maui was a teaching tool. And, well, Miller said “it’s hard to look at anyone on our team and think it’s a finished product.”
On Thursday, at least the Wildcats got back on the right track, playing hard and together, something that’s important to the team’s future. And Maui, well, that’s behind them.
“If you’re holding us to the standard of `I cannot believe you didn’t beat Auburn or Gonzaga, you’re on the planet Pluto,” Miller said. “They’re really, really good teams. They’re the No. 1 team in the nation and Auburn is going to be one of the top seeds. Auburn won the SEC last year. They could win it again this year. They have everybody back and they added (Austin) Wiley. We lost our top seven or eight players.
“So, no, we’re not going to fold and we’re not going to go down that path. We’re a team that’s going to lose a few, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a good team and a team that’s better than everybody thinks. But if you’re going to point the finger that `Man, you lost two games in Maui and your team’s going to go south, that’s not happening. That’s not going to happen here.’’
It clearly wasn’t going to happen Thursday night. Arizona had 35 made baskets on 22 assists. It had just six turnovers all night.
“I don’t know which number is better,” Miller said.
Speaking of numbers. Sophomore guard Alex Barcello had a career-high 16 points off the bench. He went 6 for 10, including 2 of 3 threes.
“It was great to see him make shots in a game,” Miller said. “We really stayed with him. He’s one of our hardest workers. It was just a matter of him playing with confidence and us wanting him to shoot the ball. The fact that he made six of them is a great sign.”
“I give credit to my teammates,” Barcello said. “We’re playing really well together. We’re finding the open man and I think that helps me build my confidence as I come in the game. It builds my teammates confidence as well.”
Who looked more confident that Devonaire Doutrive, who had eight points in 11 minutes. Miller hinted earlier in the week he’d give the seldom-used freshman a shot.
“I was impressed with Devonaire,” Miller said. “He keeps coming on. He’s working extremely hard. He plays with confidence. It’s fun to see a young guy like him develop. I think he’ll be a part of what we do moving forward.”