The gym has been very good to Bennedict Mathurin. Can’t you tell?
The freshman isn’t playing like a freshman and he surely didn’t late into the night on Thursday.
The Canadian was the star of the show for Arizona in its 98-64 win over host Oregon State. It was UA’s largest margin of victory in Corvallis since 2008. UA is now 10-3 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-12.
Mathurin finished with a game-high and career-high 31 points with all points seemingly coming fluidly.
“I just went on the court to do what I’ve been doing,” said Mathurin, who started for the first time in his UA career.
And what he’s been doing has been impressive. It’s clear he’s gained a confidence on the court that supersedes his age.
“I feel my confidence is improving every game and my defense gives me more offense,” he said.
“I’ve been in the gym a lot lately, been working on my shot working on things – layups and jump shots,” he said. “Every time I go to the gym, I get more confident.”
Starting his first game may have helped as well. Arizona coach Sean Miller hinted Arizona needed some of his offensive punch given junior shooter Jemarl Baker is now out for the season with a broken wrist.
Well, he was correct in his assessment. But what Mathurin adds is an athletic do-it-all-type player who is athletic enough to block shots, run the court and then score.
He did that in an impressive way on Thursday and in a nice sequence with Arizona already up big.
Up 35 points, Mathurin blocked a Zach Reichle shot at the basket then raced back in time for James Akinjo to find him open on the left lane. Mathurin promptly hit a 3-pointer to give him his 23rd point.
The game was never in doubt, but the question was whether Mathurin would finish with a season high 33 points for a UA Wildcat. It was set earlier this season by Baker.
Alas, that point total is safe.
Still, he said, his shot has “gotten better” since arriving at UA.
“You can see him developing, week by week,” Miller said. “Each week he’s a bit more confident and more sure of himself. He has a beautiful looking shot. He’s starting to meld into a special player.”
He’s been a welcomed asset to Miller & Co. He has a calm, coolness about him as he runs the court for Arizona.
“Ben is a great kid, a tough kid,” Miller said. “He’s traveled world, was well-coached and well-disciplined in school. He’s got a good family behind him.
“You got to remember Ben and Dalen (Terry) are both 18 and I don’t think we’ve had somebody that young here. He should be a senior in high school. He’s got a really bright future.”
Speaking of future, Arizona returns home after Thursday’s game because it won’t play Oregon on Saturday given Oregon’s COVID-19 situation. UA, however, could know of a non-conference opponent as early as Friday afternoon for a game set for Monday. Arizona faces Arizona State on Thursday.