Men’s basketball notebook: Arizona beats Wright State, Sean Miller returns to Xavier and the Wildcats look to beat TCU in order to advance to the Sweet 16


Ryan Wohl

(#4) Arizona guard Dalen Terry looks on in their first round matchup against Wright State on March 18 in San Diego. 

Ryan Wohl

SAN DIEGO — The Arizona men’s basketball team has advanced to the second round after beating Wright State by 17 points on Friday night, but a tough matchup with the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs awaits. Here is my notebook with everything happening around Arizona basketball.

One win down, five to go 

The Wildcats had an excellent night shooting the ball on Friday where they shot it over 55% from deep and 83% from the free throw line. Five Arizona players scored in double figures with Bennedict Mathurin leading the way with 18 points, but everything did not go their way after seeing them turn the ball over 19 times in the contest.

Arizona has been one of the best passing teams in college basketball this season and that continued against Wright State. Out of the Wildcats 33 baskets, 21 were assisted on while six out of the eight players who played 18 or more minutes scored at least 8 points.

“I am just proud of my team how we are playing together,” Tubelis said. “We share the ball and we are not selfish players, and that’s why we have a lot of success this year.”

They have one their first tournament game of the season, but five more wins are needed to cut down the final net of the season.

Survive and Advance

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign escaped a very tough University of Tennessee at Chattanooga team in their first round matchup. The Fighting Illini only led in that game for 23 seconds. This is a good sign for Wildcats fans because Illinois could be their matchup in the Sweet 16 if all goes well for both programs. Arizona beat them in Champagne early in the season in a close game.

Another team that gave Arizona tough fight earlier in the year is the University of Michigan Wolverines. They were given an 11 seed in the tournament but sure do not appear to be a double-digit seed right now. They beat Colorado State in the first round by 12 points and followed it up with an 8 point victory against the University of Tennessee–Knoxville to move onto the Sweet 16. The Wildcats would potentially face them in the Elite Eight but first have to worry about TCU.

Sean Miller returns to basketball 

Saturday evening it was reported by Stadium’s Jeff Goodman that Sean Miller accepted the Xavier basketball head coaching job.

A year after Arizona fired Miller, he is back in the college basketball world. He spent five seasons at Xavier before coming to Tucson for 12 years. During his time at Arizona, he won three Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards, five regular season Pac-12 Championships and three Pac-12 Tournament Championships. He took the Wildcats to three Elite Eights and two Sweet 16 during his tenure in Tucson. Coach Lloyd and Miller have crossed paths a few times over the years and aren’t close friends, but the respect is mutual.

“I’m happy for him, that’s a great job and he’s a great coach, and obviously it’s a place that he’s comfortable with and has great history,” Lloyd said. “I wish him nothing but the best, and I look forward to catching up with him when the dust settles for both of us.”

Miller played a key role in putting this current Wildcat group together over the past few years. He recruited Christian Koloko, Mathurin, Kerr Kriisa, Dalen Terry and Azuolas Tubelis out of high-school to originally come to Arizona. There is still love in Terry’s heart for what Miller did for him in their time together.

“That’s great for him. We all proud of him. He was proud of us for everything we have done this year,” Lloyd said. “I’m happy to see him happy again.”

RELATED: No.1 seed Arizona MBB advances to the round of 32 after a 17 point victory against Wright State

Kerr closer to a return?

Arizona’s starting point guard Kriisa has now missed the last three games due to an ankle injury but it looks like he is close to returning to the floor.

“He’s continuing to make progress day by day and we are gonna get there [Sunday] and see how he looks. He’s closer to playing then not playing,” Lloyd said.

At this moment, it is unknown if Kriisa can play if Lloyd will give him the starting spot over Justin Kier. It sounded like the team would try to win as many games before needing Kriisa to return to the floor, letting him take the necessary time to heel his ankle.

Arizona vs. TCU preview 

The TCU Horned Frogs defeated Seton Hall University by 27 points in a dominate first round performance on Friday. Their best player Mike Miles Jr. came to play and had 21 points on 9-18 shooting from the field.

“Obviously it’s a great challenge, but we are going to come out and battle. I told our guys you gotta be ready for the physical battle and you have to embrace it.” Lloyd said. “If you do it you have a really good chance to be successful, if you don’t it’s going to be a tough night.”

After seeing No.1 seed Baylor University lose to No.8 North Carolina University yesterday, Lloyd has told his players that each matchup will be tough and nothing comes easy in March Madness.

“They know that, they understand. I told them the first game’s tough, the second games tougher,” Lloyd said. “TCU has our full attention and we understand if we don’t do the things we need to do, we might not be successful.”

Since they split the first round of basketball up into sessions, fans have to exit the arena before re-entering for the next game leaving a near empty crowd for the first few minutes of action. Lloyd was a little bit disappointed with the Wildcat fans in attendance and thought the crowd would be better since they are only a long car ride away from Tucson.

“The environment better be great,” Lloyd said. “The fans that are lucky enough to have tickets to this and financially be able to afford it. They need to get out of the seats and bring it. Don’t sit back and wait, help us.”

Arizona will look to move on to their first Sweet 16 since the 2016-17 season against TCU tonight at 6:40 p.m. PST on TBS.

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