No Chase Jeter? No problem. And, well, Arizona didn’t panic because he was out.
But didn’t it have a right to given what you saw on Thursday night when Arizona couldn’t hit a shot to save its life against Oregon?
Instead, Saturday afternoon/evening in a big game against Oregon State, Arizona found a way to win without its big/tall man in the middle, defeating Oregon State 82-71 in McKale Center.
Not once did Miller think: how are we going to pull this off?
“When it happens in the game there’s not much you can do,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said of losing a player like Jeter. “You really rely on your system.”
Still, he thought, does Ryan Luther, who has been up and down all season, know how to play center? The answer would be, yes, given how he played it in Jeter’s absence on Saturday night. He had a season-high 16 points a season high 11 rebounds.
Miller then waxed poetic by using a football analogy for his player moving positions but still doing just fine.
“Not only did Ryan Luther play an excellent game (but) seamlessly he ran our system,” Miller said. “He did a good job. That’s part of why we won tonight.”
All Luther knew was he’d have to play more center than usual. Well, he and Ira Lee and Dylan Smith would help, too.
“We collectively filled that spot,” Luther said.
He later said, “We tried to hold it down for him.”
They held it down and eventually nailed it shut, hitting a season-high 13 3-pointers and out-rebounding the Beavers 41-29. Dylan Smith hit 3 of 5 3s. And freshman guard Brandon Williams hit 3 of 4 to finish with a game-high 20 points.
What a difference 45 hours makes. Arizona looked nothing like it did on Thursday night against Oregon where nothing seemingly went in.
Arizona’s plan of taking the best shots and “attack, and attack and attack” according to Justin Coleman worked.
“Today was our day,” said Coleman, who hit three 3s and finished with 14 points. “They fell.”
And down went the Beavers.
“Got to give them credit,” OSU’s Wayne Tinkle said. “They played inspired and our guys battled their tails off to get back in it.”
But it was hardly enough. Tinkle said a big part was the opening when Arizona jumped out to an early 10-3 lead behind five turnovers.
“It was tough. Give them credit they drilled a bunch of shots and we got into some early foul trouble,” said Tinkle of the first few minutes of the game. “I think that knocked us back on our heels.”
And Arizona continued to play inspired basketball from tip to game-ending buzzer.
“We played an inspired two hours of basketball,” Miller said. “We weren’t perfect but there isn’t anyone who could say that we didn’t give everything we had.”
Miller said victory doesn’t come easier to explain than committing just 11 turnovers and getting 67 shots to OSU’s 49.
“More shots is a big, big deal,” Miller said.
With Jeter out with a back injury for the final 35 minutes, Arizona had no rim protector but “our guys played really hard.
“I can’t say enough about how hard our guys played.”
Maybe even more importantly, Arizona played with confidence. If there’s been any team in Miller’s time here this is the one that seemingly lacks confidence – from almost everyone. Some more than others.
When asked about the team being able to weather OSU’s offensive storms – such that they were – Miller didn’t necessarily answer the question but instead spoke about the team’s demeanor.
“They are great guys and great teammates,” Miller said. “They give us all that we can ever ask for, but they aren’t filled with confidence … with our guys there is a give and take. Like with Ryan Luther who had a terrific game. I want him to shoot. It’s OK if he hits it off the backboard. It’s ok if you miss. Giving Ira (Lee) confidence, giving guys confidence is part of what we are trying to do.”
Winning helps. And Arizona picked up the much-needed win to stay near the top of the conference at 5-1 and 14-5 overall.
Miller added he feels Jeter will be fine after hurting his back in the early moments on the game.