Arizona Basketball

Wildcats feast on Omaha, prepare for bigger deal on Saturday

And now … on to the main course.

Arizona is done with the appetizers on the schedule – save for the game in a couple of weeks with St. Johns – as No. 6 Gonzaga rolls into town on Saturday.

In fact, it’s one of the bigger games that has been played in McKale Center in more than a decade. Clearly, two of the west’s better teams this year with Arizona and Gonzaga. Sorry Oregon and Washington, but you two are up later in the schedule.

This one on Saturday will tell you just how good Arizona truly is or isn’t.

“I think everybody comes to Arizona to play in games like this,” said UA senior Chase Jeter after UA defeated Omaha 99-49 in McKale Center. “Nothing we’ll shy away from. It’s something we expect when we come here so you know we’re excited and I think I speak for everybody in that regard.”

Arizona’s Nico Mannion finished with 13 points and 11 assists for a double double. (Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics)

It’s the reason we’ve been waiting for it. Christmas has, indeed, come early. Except for the blip at Baylor (what was expected to be a loss by many), Arizona has feasted on the finger-good teams to this point, gobbling up the plates like they hadn’t eaten in months.

Wednesday night was one of those as Arizona defeated Omaha (5-7) in quick and easy fashion.

“I think it’s a good bounce-back game for us,” Jeter said. “All credit to Omaha, they were they were down a guy, but in games like this, it was really our emphasis to try to gear ourselves for Saturday and the biggest way we can gear ourselves for Saturday is coming off a win like that.

“So, you know, we got two days here to get ready and practice hard and we got to give it our all against on Saturday against Gonzaga.”

But first the quick review: Of the 11 players who suited up for Arizona, 10 scored. And, it was such a team performance it was hard to pick out the best one.

Was it freshman Christian Koloko, who had five points but pulled down 10 rebounds?

Was it Chase Jeter, who had 15 points on 5 for 5 shooting and 5 for 5 free throw attempts?

Or was it freshman Nico Mannion’s 13 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double?

Why not Dylan Smith’s 14 points, all in the first half?

Point is Arizona played efficiently and affectively in picking up its 10th win.

“I’m really happy for our team, you know, it’s not easy to bounce back when you don’t play well and you know you lose your first game of the season, like we did at Baylor,” Miller said. “I thought the response of our guys was tremendous. Not just tonight in our game but leading into the game we didn’t point fingers or have, you know, multiple team meetings to pick up everybody’s spirits. We just got to work.”

And made quick work of Omaha. Clearly, Omaha was not in Arizona’s league. So, now comes Saturday when Gonzaga is in the same proverbial league – maybe better? – given the rankings and the expectations. At the very least it should be fun.

“So, how many second shots teams get against us, I hope we can point towards less and less and less, but there’s no bigger key for our team on Saturday, than to keep those guys off the offensive glass,” Miller said as a factor his team’s success on Saturday. “I don’t think they (Bulldogs) get enough credit in that area. They can beat you up and they have two bigs in the game, they have wings who run in from the 3-point line, and everybody on our team has to know that for us to have a chance, regardless of where we’re playing this game. We have to rebound the ball. There were times tonight and we did it well, better in the second half. But, even in the first half we gave up a couple that we shouldn’t and that’s why it’s such an emphasis right now because we’re not good at it. We have to get better.

Because the big meal is here on Sunday.

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