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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bayless brings Arizona’s swagger back

    Arizona 85, Houston 71

    HOUSTON – Jerryd Bayless is back with a vengeance.

    After having its star point guard sidelined with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee for four games – three loses and a win – the Arizona men’s basketball team reaped the benefit of having Bayless return to the lineup Saturday afternoon.

    Scoring a season-high 33 points – the most of any Wildcat this season – the freshman Bayless led the Wildcats (11-5) to an 85-71 nonconference win over Houston (11-3) in the Hofheinz Pavilion in a game that was nationally televised on ESPN2.

    “”Players play, tough players win,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”(Michigan State head coach) Tom Izzo says that all the time. Jerryd gives us a toughness, a moxie, a swagger that we don’t have when he’s not in there.””

    Bayless, who dressed out but didn’t play in Arizona’s loss to ASU on Wednesday, scored a school-record 18 points at the free-throw line – making 9-of-10 shots at the charity stripe in each half.

    The 6-foot-3 guard said he wasn’t 100 percent healthy in the game but decided he felt well enough in practice on Friday to play.

    “”I can’t move laterally the best that I can, but I still feel pretty well, and I think it showed tonight,”” Bayless said.

    Besides shooting 7-for-13 in his game-high scoring effort, Bayless also distributed the ball well, dishing out a game-high nine assists. Being double-teamed for much of the contest left his teammates open.

    “”They understand who he is and he understands who they are,”” O’Neill said of Bayless’ teammates. “”Both parties made each other better.””

    It showed on the scoreboard, where Arizona scored its second-best output of the season and shot 60.9 percent (28-for-46) after averaging 68.0 points per game and shooting 46.1 percent without Bayless.

    That includes a season-best 71.4 percent effort in the second half (15-for-21), with the Wildcats improving to 7-0 when shooting 50 percent or better.

    Forwards Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill each scored 17 points, with Hill’s final four points coming in the form of monster dunks in the final minute of the game.

    Guard Jawann McClellan, one of three Houston natives on the UA squad along with guard Nic Wise and forward Fendi Onobun, chipped in with nine points as the only player on the court to play all 40 minutes.

    “”I thought a lot of guys played well,”” O’Neill said. “”Fendi played his minutes hard and (forward) Zane (Johnson) only played (two) minutes but played them well. As a team, we all executed well and played good basketball.””

    On the other side, the UA defense limited Houston to 35.8 percent shooting (24-for-67), a season low for the home team.

    The Cougars, who averaged over 10 3s per game before the Wildcats came to town, went just 5-for-22 from beyond the arc (22.7 percent), also a season-low percentage. Guard Robert McKiver made three of the treys in a game-high 10 attempts.

    “”Shots usually fall for us in previous games,”” said UH head coach Tom Penders. “”A lot of our shots didn’t fall for us today. … And those are shots that usually help us build a lead or stay in a tight game.””

    Arizona led 38-33 at halftime behind the aggressive play of Bayless, who compiled game highs in points (15), rebounds (five) and assists (three) in the first 20 minutes. He shot 3-of-7 from the field, as getting to the foul line helped.

    McKiver opened up the second half with two of his 16 points to bring the Cougs within three at 38-35. But Houston didn’t get any closer.

    The next play Bayless set Budinger up for an ally-oop dunk.

    “”Jerryd gives us another offensive threat, and it makes my job a lot easier,”” Budinger said. “”On the offensive end, we have a little bit more chemestry, and we’re able to drive and kick better when Jerryd’s out there.””

    Bayless played for 39 minutes, resting briefly with five minutes left in the game. But he didn’t ride the bench. While he was off the court, he rode a stationary bike near the UA bench.

    “”I just wanted to make sure I didn’t get tight because when I get tight that’s when I start to feel the pull a little bit more on my knee,”” Bayless said.

    McClellan said that when Bayless is in the lineup the team has a greater sense of intensity, something that was especially true against Houston after McKiver “”talked trash”” to Bayless.

    “”I don’t even remember exactly what he said,”” Bayless said. “”I think he was just kind of trying to come out and intimidate me, but I think he doesn’t know who he’s talking to,”” he added with a smile.

    “”Then Chase – Chase was talking trash,”” McClellan added. “”That just goes to show you that we have our swagger back as a team.””

    Eight minutes into the game, Hill collected his second foul – both offensive – and was benched for the rest of the half. But Hill still managed to grab nine boards in the contest and swatted a career-high-tying five shots as Arizona was largely unaffected.

    The Wildcats took an 18-12 lead about halfway through the first half with a McClellan dunk – one of two from him in the opening 20 minutes.

    “”Jawann had one of his better games this season,”” O’Neill said.

    Guard Zamal Nixon blew by the UA defense much of the afternoon on his way to scoring a team-high 24 points for the Cougars in 34 minutes off the bench, but not even he could keep from noticing Bayless’ play.

    “”I think Bayless is one of the better players that we’ve played this year,”” Nixon said. “”… He’s such a great freshman.””

    And 1

    UA assistant coach Miles Simon did not make the trip to Houston to be with his ill grandmother …

    Forward Bret Brielmaier stayed in Tucson to get treatment on his separated shoulder. …

    Former UH coach Guy V. Lewis was honored at halftime for his success as a Cougar coach and player from 1946-1986.

    Over 30 seasons as the head coach for the Cougars, Lewis – now 85 and in a wheelchair – recorded 592 wins and led the team to five NCAA Final Four appearances, 14 NCAA Tournaments and four Southwest Conference Postseason Classic titles.

    The coach, who was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame last fall, guided Houston to the 1977 NIT Championship Game and produced 11 first-round selections in the NBA Draft and 29 NBA Draft picks overall.

    In his honor, 175 former players who played for coach Lewis attended the game. …

    Budinger grabbed a career-high-tying 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He joins Hill as the only Wildcats to record double-doubles. …

    Bayless’ 33 points marked the 10th-highest scoring game for a freshman in Pac-10 history. …

    The Wildcats scored 82.4 percent of their points (70 of 85) in the paint or at the free-throw line.

    For more on the state of the team, check out the Wildcat‘s blog.

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