Arizona Wildcats basketball: Mayes finding his shot in postseason play
Derrick Williams carried the Arizona Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2011, but it was Jordin Mayes who made the difference.
He was a freshman, and a backup nonetheless, but against Texas in the round of 32, Mayes went off for 16 points and shot 4-for-4 from 3-point range in a one-point Wildcats win.
He only scored five points in their next two games — an upset win against Duke and a loss to Connecticut — but, two years later, his performance against the Longhorns still stands as, if not the best performance, the most important one, of his career. And the Wildcats wouldn’t have advanced without it.
“When you think about conference and postseason tournaments,” head coach Sean Miller said, “generally, there are guys on a team who come off the bench or players who aren’t the marquee matchup in the beginning of the game that just play really well.
Kyle Wasson / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UA men's basketball team traveled to Las Vegas, March 13-16, for the 2012-13 Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. Although the Wildcats won their first matchup against Colorado, they fell to UCLA in the semi-finals for the third time this season.
“If you think how close that game was, it wasn’t Derrick Williams or the starting five that made the biggest difference. It was players like Jordin who came off the bench and did their job with confidence. He is one of many players right now that is playing their best basketball this season.”
After that game, things went downhill pretty quickly for Mayes. An injury-plagued sophomore year saw him shooting 29.7 percent from three, a far cry from an insane 45.3 his freshman year, and the Wildcats missed the tournament.
This season, Miller had a hard time justifying giving him playing time at all.
After the Wildcats’ first four games in November, where Mayes scored 5.8 points per game, he didn’t score more than five again until March 2 against UCLA. As in he scored less than six points in 24 straight games. He was held scoreless in 10 of those games, and had one or two points in five others.
“Earlier this season I wasn’t being productive,” Mayes said. “But now, I showed a little light during the UCLA game.”
In that March 2 game at Pauley Pavilion, Mayes scored eight points in 13 minutes with two assists. The Wildcats lost the game, but his play has been solid ever since.
In his last four games, including UCLA, Mayes has played 11.8 minutes per game with 5.5 points per contest at a 47 percent clip, and 57.1 percent from 3-point range.
“I feel like I’m better than what I was my freshman year,” Mayes said. “Right now I’m playing good basketball and being productive for my team.”
Sixth-seeded Arizona will face 11th-seed Belmont in Salt Lake City on Thursday for the NCAA tournament.