Nov. 9, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Jordin Mayes spent most of last season overshadowed, like everyone else, by Derrick Williams. He started this season in the same situation, this time in the back seat behind Arizona's four heralded freshmen.
If Mayes keeps shooting this way, he may finally start getting some "sugar."
Quickly developing into Arizona's go-to player, Mayes keyed a second-half run for the second straight game, scoring 16 of his 19 points in the final 20 minutes to help the 16th-ranked Wildcats pull away from Duquesne for a 67-59 victory Wednesday night.
"He gets no sugar," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "He came here, no one asked me about him, he just did his job. Year 1 became Year 2, still no sugar, yet the guy does a good job and I'm glad we have him on our team."
Arizona (2-0) struggled against the Dukes' frenetic pressure early, managing to keep it close thanks to a smothering defense.
Jesse Perry solidified his role as the Wildcats' most consistent player early in the season, notching his second straight double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman Angelo Chol had another productive game, keeping numerous balls alive while grabbing seven rebounds and scoring six points.
But Mayes was the difference, again.
The sophomore had some big games during the Wildcats' run to the NCAA tournament regional final last season, but missed three months of the offseason due to a broken foot. Mayes has progressively gotten better since practice started and opened the season by triggering a big run in Arizona's win over Valparaiso.
With the Wildcats struggling against another smaller program, he again took over, scoring nine points in a 3-minute span to push Arizona's tenuous lead upward. Mayes got it started with a runner along the baseline and put the Wildcats up 57-48 on a drive-and-kick 3-pointer - his fourth of the game - with 4 1/2 minutes left.
"Coach stays in my ear, hyping me and telling me to stay confident," said Mayes, who was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. "I'm going to play my game the way he wants me to play and help the team the best possible way."
Mayes' game helped spoil Duquesne's season opener.
The Dukes (0-1) created havoc on defense, as usual, forcing Arizona into 21 turnovers. They just couldn't seem to make anything - other than free throws in the first half - going 4 of 26 from 3-point range while shooting 33 percent overall.
Eric Evans and Sean Johnson had 13 points each to lead Duquesne.
"It was frustrating - we were missing so many open looks," Dukes coach Ron Everhart said. "We were working so hard offensively and getting open looks, but we couldn't convert."
Arizona has been a work in progress in its first season in three years without Williams, last year's Pac-10 player of the year.
A mix of young players and ones expected to fill bigger roles, the Wildcats were awful in losing to Seattle-Pacific in their first exhibition game, got a little better in a preseason win over Humboldt State and still better in beating Valparaiso on Monday.
Arizona certainly needed to continue the get-better-by-the-game trend against Duquesne.
The Dukes are small compared to the Wildcats, who aren't exactly giants, but they sure are quick.
Everhart has turned up the speed in his six seasons at Duquesne, creating a frenetic pace with full-court pressure that starts with the opening tip and doesn't stop until the final horn.
The Dukes are young in the frontcourt and have players off the bench adjusting to expanded roles, but they are a tough matchup for teams not used to playing at their pace.
Arizona handled the pressure early, but Duquesne kept coming and the Wildcats helped with some questionable decisions, leading to 11 first-half turnovers.
The Wildcats shot well when they got the ball into position, going 8 of 16 in the first half. Duquesne was just 8 for 27 from the field, yet led 30-28 at halftime thanks to 11-of-12 shooting on free throws.
The Dukes just couldn't keep it up in the second half, clanging more shots from the field and from the free throw line while the Wildcats pulled away behind Mayes.
"We know we can make those shots," Evans said. "We had a lot of good looks, but we just know we have to bounce back, get back in the gym and keep shooting. We're a better shooting team than we were tonight."