Chol delivers in 73-66 win against Stanford
It was the 40th anniversary of McKale Center.
With No. 7 Arizona’s 73-66 win against Stanford, the Wildcats took sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, at least for the time being.
“But,” head coach Sean Miller said, “the story of tonight’s game was Angelo Chol.”
Before Wednesday night, the little-used sophomore center had been biding his time on the bench.
But he stayed with the process.
Chol only played 7.8 minutes per game coming in, and had three DNP’s, but he stayed with the process.
Miller kept telling him, “Be ready, Chol. Be ready. You’re going to get your opportunity.”
“I mean, it’s been frustrating and stuff,” Chol said. “But I didn’t get down on myself, I just kept going with the process. [Miller’s] always saying, ‘Go with the process’.
“I believe in coach, so I’m going to do what he says.”
Chol finally got his chance. And he delivered.
In playing a career-high 24 minutes, Chol grabbed a career-high eight rebounds and scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting.
The Wildcats didn’t take their first lead against the Cardinal until five minutes had passed in the final half, but with 4:08 remaining, Chol received a timely Mark Lyons pass and slammed it home, putting Arizona ahead for good.
“I’m one of the guys who really cheers Chol on,” said Lyons, who scored a season-high 25 points. “We all do. I got a lot of faith in him and I know when he gets into the game. He was just clicking on all cylinders honestly.”
It helped that his main competitors for minutes — Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett — were virtually non-existent.
Ashley fouled out after playing just 13 minutes, and recorded six points on 2-of-8 shooting; Tarczewski played 13 minutes as well, and had one point and two rebounds; Jerrett was held out with a foot injury.
Without Chol, Miller said, Arizona would not have won.
That’s a far cry from the player that hadn’t played a meaningful minute in weeks, if at all.
And he played with the energy of a starter.
“I even liked when he goaltended,” senior forward Solomon Hill said of a Chol’s failed putback attempt late in the first half. “I think the ball was going in, but the fact that he was on the rim like that showed his aggressiveness.”
Chol didn’t play for the first six minutes of the game, though, wherein the Wildcats fell into a quick 10-0 deficit.
“We were down 10-0,” Miller said, “but you can always say we’ve been here before.”
In recent games against Washington, UCLA and Oregon, the Wildcats fell behind big, and wound up losing two of those games.
Arizona stepped up defensively, though, and kept it from getting out of hand.
The Wildcats shot 10-of-29 (34.5 percent) from the field in the first half, but Stanford shot 8-of-27 (29.6 percent). Four early 3-pointers, including two from guard Aaron Bright, helped the Cardinal to a 27-26 halftime lead.
Bright, a 27.8 percent 3-point shooter coming in, hit 4-of-7 threes on the game for 16 points. Dwight Powell had a team-high 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Cardinal.
Arizona counteracted with a strong second half, powered by the UA’s senior leaders — Hill and Lyons.
Lyons scored his points on 9-of-13 shooting and added six assists against two turnovers.
“It was his best game at Arizona,” Miller said.
Hill struggled in the first half, going 1-of-6 with three points. But in a scoring barrage late in the second half, he scored 12 of Arizona’s final 21 points and spurred a 14-3 run with 5:43 remaining to put the game away.
He finished with a season-high 23 points and added six rebounds.
“I just picked it up,” Hill said. “I think I started off pretty terrible, but you just gotta put that behind you.”
Jerrett may or may not play on Sunday
For the first time this season, Arizona played without one of its ‘elite eight,’ that is, the Wildcats’ eight-man rotation that has received the lion’s share of playing time through 22 games.
Freshman forward Grant Jerrett missed Wednesday’s game with a foot injury, and head coach Sean Miller isn’t sure if he will suit up when the UA welcomes Cal to McKale Center on Sunday night.
“Grant may be available on Sunday,” Miller said. “We’re not there yet so we’ll keep an eye on him.”
Jerrett will have an extra day to recover, though, as the Wildcats have an two more days than usual to prepare for the Golden Bears — the schedule typically has games falling on Thursday and Saturday.
Miller said the injury was a stress reaction “of the lowest grade” and compared it to a similar injury junior guard Jordin Mayes had last year that cost him a few weeks of action, although it’s not as severe.
“We caught it at the vey beginning,” Miller said. “Jordin Mayes … had it a year ago. When he got his MRI it showed significant spot.
“Grant’s isn’t anywhere near that which is good.”
Johnson should be 100% by Sunday
Nick Johnson struggled offensively against the Cardinal, scoring two points on 1-of-5 shooting. Miller attributed it to the after-effects of a stomach virus Johnson had against Washington State on Saturday.
“It takes sometimes about 5-6 days for you to regain yourself,” Miller said. “I think by the time we get to Cal game Nick will be 100 percent again.”