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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats grind out another victory in Vegas

    UA forward Jordan Hill takes the ball from UNLV guard Kendall Wallace during the No. 19 Wildcats 52-49 win in Las Vegas on Wednesday Night in the Thomas & Mack Center. Hill scored 16 points and grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds.
    UA forward Jordan Hill takes the ball from UNLV guard Kendall Wallace during the No. 19 Wildcats’ 52-49 win in Las Vegas on Wednesday Night in the Thomas & Mack Center. Hill scored 16 points and grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds.

    No. 19 Arizona 52, Nevada-Las Vegas 49

    LAS VEGAS – It sure seemed fitting that Jordan Hill grabbed a rebound with six seconds left that all but clinched an Arizona victory Wednesday night at Nevada-Las Vegas.

    After all, Hill seemed to snatch every other carom in the No. 19 Wildcats’ 52-49 grind-it-out victory over the Runnin’ Rebels, collecting a career-high 19 against an undersized and overmatched UNLV front line.

    “”He was a monster on the boards, especially on the defensive boards,”” UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said of Hill, who grabbed 11 defensive rebounds.

    Along with Hill’s 16 points, that helped Arizona (8-2) stay in the game long enough to mount another late comeback and win a game it trailed until a Nic Wise free throw put the team on top, 49-48, with 1:18 left.

    From there guard Jawann McClellan hit a 3 in the corner with 26 seconds left to seal a victory in a game where the defenses dominated in the second half.

    The UA defense forced the Rebels (7-3) into misses on 14 of their last 16 shots (12.5 percent) to finally take over a game in which Arizona’s perimeter shots weren’t falling, with the team hitting five of 19 from 3-point land (26.3 percent).

    “”It’s very nice to grind out wins,”” said forward Chase Budinger. “”That’s what we do best is get down close toward the end of the game and really, really dig deep.””

    The Wildcats won the game despite poor offensive performances from Budinger and guard Jerryd Bayless, the team’s leading scorers.

    Both players were held to season-low point totals with the Rebels switching on screens to take them out of the game. Bayless scored eight and Budinger six.

    So the game plan turned to Hill, a developing player improving every game, who recorded a double-double in the first half alone.

    “”They did what they needed to do, and we did what we needed to do to win the game, and that was go to Jordan,”” O’Neill said.

    UNLV’s inside presence consisted of 6-foot-7 forward Joe Darger and 6-foot-5 forward Corey Bailey, who combined for seven rebounds between the two of them.

    Hill so dominated the boards that Arizona secured 17 more rebounds than the Rebels, a season-high margin, and held UNLV without a single second-chance point, with Hill grabbing more offensive rebounds than the entire Vegas team.

    “”It’s been big. Jordan pretty much got every rebound possible, and I got the ones he didn’t get,”” said Budinger, who grabbed a season-high eight. “”It’s very important for us to not let second-chance points happen for other teams, and that’s what I think we did pretty well tonight. We got most of the rebounds.””

    Hill said he’s slicing better and looking for the ball more lately while crashing the boards hard, something he’s done better his past three contests – averaging 14.0 rebounds per game – than in his first seven, when he averaged 4.4 boards per game.

    Arizona has outrebounded its opponents by 9.0 rebounds per game over its past six contests and not surprisingly has won its last five.

    “”I like how we’ve rebounded the ball the last six, seven games,”” O’Neill said. “”We’ve rebounded the ball extremely well, and even tonight when we were small we still rebounded the ball very well.””

    Hill was only able to have such a big game, one not bettered by another Arizona player since 1984, because he stayed out of foul trouble, not picking up his first personal until 8:46 remained in the game.

    Not surprisingly, Hill has evaded foul trouble during Arizona’s five game-winning streak after struggling with picking up avoidable fouls to start the year.

    “”Jordan’s doing a better job on the defensive end not picking up any stupid fouls, and when teams like this go to smaller lineups we really want to emphasis giving Jordan the ball because he is so much bigger and is the type of player that can step up and score,”” Budinger said.

    Added McClellan: “”If he could have done this the first two, three games … He can’t do anything if he’s on the bench with K.O. As long as he stays out of foul trouble, now we’re making it an emphasis to get him the ball.””

    All that helped the Wildcats grind out a win in the lowest-scoring game they’ve been involved in since beating Marquette, 48-43, on Dec. 18, 2004. They survived a game in which UNLV’s tough defense forced them into 34.6 percent shooting, missing a number of open jumpers to boot.

    “”Our shots weren’t falling,”” Hill said. “”I was just concentrating on defense, trying to stop the opponent, because they were a good team. We just had to go out there and do it with defense.””

    Although McClellan said he would prefer a more typical run-and-gun Arizona game, he’ll take any win, especially one against a quality team on the road.

    After all, an ugly game in December could look aesthetically pleasing on an NCAA Tournament resume in March.

    “”We’ll take it how we can,”” McClellan said. “”Could we have been a grind-it-out team last year or two years ago? Probably not. But you have players that are buying into the system of what K.O.’s trying to bring our team, and a win is a win for us.

    “”Every win is big, and we’re talking about the NCAA Tournament. We’re trying to get a high seed, and it’s going to be a great win at the end of the season.””

    And 1

    Forward Bret Brielmaier started, but Wise finished. Brielmaier played a single minute before O’Neill inserted Wise, who scored nine points, dished out seven assists and grabbed four rebounds in 36 minutes.

    “”We just had to go small,”” O’Neill said. “”I told (Brielmaier), ‘We’ve got to downsize tonight, you can’t go.’ Bret was out of the game the rest of the game just because we had to go small.”” …

    Laval Lucas-Perry decided to transfer to Michigan after the freshman guard announced he would leave Arizona last week, according to published reports. Lucas-Perry, a native of Grand Blanc, Mich., will have 2 1/2 seasons of eligibility remaining when he’s eligible at the end of the fall semester next year.

    “”I wish him the best,”” O’Neill said. “”I wish him the very best. John Beilein’s a great coach, Michigan’s a great school. I wish him the absolute very best.”” …

    The win moved the Wildcats to No. 2 in the RPI, according to kenpom.com, up from No. 10. Arizona boasts the No. 3 strength of schedule in the nation.

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