After struggling to find a groove on offense through the first month of the season, Grant Jerrett was finally able to show fans the type of scoring acumen he brings to practice every day.
The freshman big man scored a career high 15 points and was a beneficiary of Mark Lyons’ seven assists in an 89-64 Arizona victory over Oral Roberts.
Jerrett’s key baseline jumpers against Florida sparked the confidence that allowed him to put together a game that featured three makes from deep.
“Sometimes you just need the ball to go into the basket and that happened in the Florida game,” said coach Sean Miller of the McDonald’s All-American. “Tonight was more about what we see all the time.”
Lyons was the only Arizona player to score more than Jerrett, leading the team with 17 points. But more significantly, he played with a sense of selflessness not seen before Tuesday, leading fellow senior Solomon Hill to remark, “He understands that he can get people involved and gets shots off as well.”
Hill continued, “His toughness is what we live and what keeps us going.”
Lyons also showed some off-the-court leadership when he consoled Kaleb Tarczewski after the center fouled out for the second consecutive game. The point guard took a seat on the bench next to the seven footer, wrapped his arm around him, and offered some advice.
More and more, the Arizona fan base is falling in love with Lyons for the way that he compasses a young team both on the court and in other aspects. He is the anti-Josiah Turner in nearly every sense.
While the Cats had another prolific outing on offense, shooting nearly 60% and recording 13 more assists than Oral Roberts, it was the prowess defense that will be the biggest take away from a game that was never really competitive from the start.
Arizona forced the Golden Eagles into 20 turnovers, half of which were from steals by Hill and Nick Johnson.
The two veterans constantly battle each other in practice situations and it has clearly transferred into game situations. “I learn off Nick and I just want to be a guy that’s active on defense,” said Hill. “He gets me mad sometimes because he’s so much lower and it’s kind of hard to shake off a guy that’s so much lower than me.”
Johnson in particular has impressed Miller because his coach has seen him go from a freshman who was sometimes a liability to a guy that averages nearly three steals a game. “Nick’s adjustment and his improvement is remarkable from his freshman year to his sophomore year. He’s taken that role as a defensive stopper very seriously.”
Although Oral Roberts’ Warren Niles finished with 22 points, Johnson limited him to nearly zero good looks when the two were matched up in the first half.
Next up for Arizona is a trip to Hawaii where the Cats will compete in the Diamondhead Classic. When asked whether the tournament should be compared to the summer Bahamas voyage, Jerrett shook his head. “It’ll be a lot different,” he said.
Whereas the team was still learning its identity back in August, now “it’s all seriousness out there,” continued the ever-improving freshman. “We all want to win and we all want to become great. It’s like a job for us.”