TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Stellar recruiting classes have given Arizona an array of star players through Sean Miller’s 12 seasons in the desert. The Wildcats lost three players to the NBA from last year and while it was a good 2020 recruiting class, it lacked a true go-to player.
No stars, no problem so far this season.
Terrell Brown Jr. was Arizona’s fourth leading scorer in as many games with 16 points, Jemarl Baker Jr. added 15 and the Wildcats dominated Cal State Bakersfield 85-60 on Wednesday night.
“Our team this team has played with an edge to us,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We’re really locked in on trying to be a better group, a better team. We play nine quality players and on different nights different players can step up and play well.”
The Wildcats (4-0) beat Northern Arizona in a rout on Monday behind Baker’s 33 points and jumped on the Roadrunners (1-2) with a dominating first half.
Arizona made seven 3-pointers to lead by 20 at halftime and went 12 of 28 overall from the arc. The Wildcats had another free-flowing game of sharing the ball, finishing with 21 assists on 27 field goals.
“Everybody on this team can play,” said Brown, a transfer from Seattle University who went 4 for 8 from 3-point range. “Our game is sharing the ball, getting everybody else involved.”
Bakersfield struggled with Arizona’s length on offense and gave the Wildcats too many open looks from the perimeter to stand much of a chance.
The Roadrunners shot 4 of 17 from 3-point and Arizona used several of the misses to open shots for Arizona at the other end. Arizona also had nine steals and seven blocked shots — four by Christian Koloko.
Cameron Smith had 11 points and De’Monte Buckingham 10 to lead Bakersfield.
“We want to run off defensive stops and we want to be fast into our offense,” Miller said. “Guys are doing a good job of that right now. We had some great possessions off missed shots, blocked shots, steals and some of those possessions led to 3-point shooting.”
The new-look Wildcats had a different leading scorer in each of their first three games.
Jordan Brown had 19 points and 15 rebounds in the opener against Grambling State and James Akinjo had 15 against Eastern Washington. Baker scored the most points by a player under Miller with his 33 against Northern Arizona, hitting 7 of 9 from the 3-point arc.
Travis Henson had a similar type of game in Bakersfield’s home win over Bethesda on Monday, hitting seven 3-pointers and for 21 points in 13 minutes.
Baker hit a 3-pointer in the first two minutes, added another and mixed in a pair of jumpers during a 14-2 run that put Arizona up 33-19. Terrell Brown found the range as well, hitting three 3-pointers, and the Wildcats were 7 for 13 from the arc to lead 46-26 at halftime.
Arizona opened the second half with a 6-0 run, then Terrell Brown and Baker hit consecutive 3s to push the lead to 74-49.
Bakersfield was able to hang with Arizona early, but had no answer when the Wildcats started to pull away in the first half.
Arizona had had trouble shooting from the perimeter in past seasons, but that doesn’t appear to be a problem this year after the Wildcats made a combined 25 3-pointers the past two games.
Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin arrived at Arizona with a diverse background and array of skills.
The 6-foot-7 swingman is of Haitian decent, but was born and raised in Montreal. He speaks English, French, Creole and, thanks to a stint with the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City, Spanish as well.
On the court, Maturin is a superbly athletic player who plays above the rim, can shoot from the perimeter, beat defenders off the dribble and is an excellent passer.
He put all his abilities on display against Bakersfield, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds and two assists.
“I feel like if I have to play 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, I’ll do it for the team,” Mathurin said. “I’m going to do anything I can for the team.”
Bakersfield hosts Idaho on Saturday.
Arizona hosts UTEP on Saturday.
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