Arizona 73, Wake Forest 66 quotes & notes

Arizona Coach Sean Miller – “First of all we are thrilled to leave here as the champion of this tournament.  Winning three games in four days is never an easy task.  In each of the three games that we played we showed some really good things and in the same three games there were clearly areas that we need to improve in.  Really you could say that about all college basketball teams in late November, early December.  We haven’t won a tournament like this in several years, but we talk about establish what we do each season and each version of the team that we have.  This accomplishment we will carry with us all year long.  In particular I am really proud of Chase Jeter and Dylan Smith.  Our younger guys get a lot of notoriety and rightfully so because they have been some great additions.  Each of those guys have played great basketball.  Zeke (Nnaji) didn’t have his normal night but I thought Josh Green played outstanding, he had 12 rebounds.  Obviously, Nico (Mannion) is the quarterback of what we do but if Dylan Smith and Chase Jeter didn’t play the way they played tonight, I don’t know if we would have left here as champions.  Each of those guys have taken a different path but they’re older, they’re experienced, and I am really proud of the way they played in a game of this meaning.  I am hoping we can really call on this as the year goes on.”

Battle inside the paint – “We had a couple shots around the basket that just didn’t go and some of it you have to credit Wake Forest.  They’re athletic, their big guy (Olivier) Sarr is a very talented player and he can affect sometimes some shots.  That’s why I said what I said about Chase (Jeter), he was seven for ten from the field and a lot of times he just scored with his back to the basket one-on-one over him.  We are not going to play against a guy bigger than that and that’s why I thought Chase (Jeter) was a big reason we were able to win.”

Team coming together so quickly – “I think we believe in our team, obviously we have a lot of talented players and we also have a deep team.  Take one guy out of the mix and we have enough that we can overcome.  Not only Stone (Gettings) not playing but Zeke (Nnaji) really having been in foul trouble the entire night and not being able to give us a whole lot of minutes in the second half.  You think about Stone (Gettings) not being there, Zeke (Nnaji) being in foul trouble and our relief being able to play through foul trouble and injuries.  I think that is something we are going to call on all season long and we did here in this tournament.  Max Hazzard had a couple big shots in the first half tonight.  Jemarl Baker played very well in the first two games in this tournament.  Those two guys don’t start so we can beat you with our starters, off the bench, and then from a scoring perspective a number of guys can contribute.”

On Nico Mannion being MVP – “Yeah, he made the game winner on the first night, he was outstanding ten for fourteen from the field in game two.  Tonight, he hit a big shot, the biggest shot of the game on our end, he made it.  That was after the timeout under the two-minute park.  You know Nico (Mannion) is a clutch player, he has always embraced big moments and I think this tournament brought out the best in him.  I also want to tell you Zeke (Nnaji) and Josh Green both played really well.  Josh Green had twelve rebounds tonight and if it wasn’t for his rebounding, again there are a lot of ways to win but he was a big reason we won.”

Effect of tournament on young group – “It’s great for us to be able to play away from home.  I know that we had a lot of fans here but just not being in Tucson and playing three games in four nights, it represents the Pac 12 tournament and games you are going to play in March.  The fact that we have three neutral games and Penn especially, they are a really hard team to defend.  We learned a lot in that game that we can take with us back home because we have to improve.  We have to take these wins, feel good about them and continue to build and grow.”

Other lessons you may have learned – “Our offense is better than our defense.  We had some good moments tonight; we fouled a lot but holding them to the percentages that we did is a good thing.  Our defense has to improve its not one area, it’s all areas.  Defending the three-point shot and not fouling.  Guys being in the right spots.  I do think that more than any other thing coming here that’s what we gained from it.”

Takeaways from winning – “Confidence, you know it’s a long journey college basketball and everybody here is graded by the months of November and December in a big way.  Who you schedule, who you beat, and who you beat on a neutral court.  We control our non-conference schedule we do not control our conference schedule.  Being able to come here and win it, its confidence and it’s also really important.  The other part is we played an ACC team tonight, deservedly so, that conference gets a lot of respect.  Being able to compete against an ACC opponent and being able to beat them away from our home court is something that we have pride in and I’m sure our conference does as well.”

Wake Forest Coach Danny Manning – “I’m disappointed; not the game we wanted to have. We wanted to walk out of here holding the trophy. I thought we did some things fairly well, but not well enough to win the ball game. I thought going into the ball game putting together our game plan, we wanted to slow down their big three. In our eyes, the big three were [Zeke] Nnaji, [Josh] Green, and [Nico] Mannion. I thought we did a decent job on them. Now [Chase] Jeter and [Dylan] Smith, those were the guys we wanted to make shots; and tonight, they made shots. So, hats off to them on their team effort. But I thought our guys guarded the scouting report well wanting to limit their big three.” (On only shooting 31% in the 2nd half but keeping it close) “Well I thought we showed some grit. I thought we started rebounding the ball better in the second half as well. They still got us on the glass, 43-38, but I thought we made a little more of a concerted effort to finish possessions. We weren’t really turning the ball over. Neither turned team turned the ball over an alarming rate. I just thought for us that we had some chances; we had a 10-0 run and a 14-0 run. It wasn’t enough to get us over the hump. We didn’t string together enough shots to be honest with you. I thought we showed some toughness being down 15 and continuing to battle and keep it close to make it a game down the stretch. Then when the shots weren’t falling for us, I thought we did a decent job getting to the free throw line. We had 26 free throw attempts.” (On Wake Forest Center Olivier Sarr doing better coming off the bench now versus when he started) “Well selfishly for me, his numbers are doing better. He’s still playing starter’s minutes. I think he’s more comfortable coming off the bench for whatever reason. He played almost 31 minutes tonight. He’s going to play minutes for us. When I was a player and I came in off the bench, I enjoyed seeing the flow of the game. I enjoyed seeing how guys were playing and things of that nature before I got into the game. I think he’s starting to really understand that; who he’s guarding coming in, how the flow of the game’s going, what that player was doing before he gets on the court. I think that’s been very beneficial to him. Just sitting back and studying the game and watching the flow, but he’s playing really well for us.”

Wooden Chips
• With Arizona winning the 2019 Wooden Legacy, this makes the sixth title for the PAC-12 Conference in this tournament and the league’s teams are a perfect 6-0 in championship games… Arizona became the sixth different team in the PAC-12 to win a Wooden Legacy title… the PAC-12 has won three of the last four Wooden Legacy trophies.
• Wake Forest joined San Diego State as the only two teams to play in two Wooden Legacy championships (both of those teams won one title and finished second in their other championship game appearance).
• While the first six Wooden Legacy championships all had a margin of victory of at least 12 points (with an average margin of 18.0 points), just one of the last seven title games had a double-digit margin (average of 6.7 points in that span).
• Arizona set a Wooden Legacy record by scoring 258 points in its three games, surpassing the 255 UCLA had in 2016.
• In the championship game, Wake Forest shot 23-26 (.885) FT, which is the highest percentage ever in a Wooden Legacy championship game… in the tournament WFU shot 68-78 (.872) FT, which just narrowly miss setting the record for the highest free throw percentage for three games in the Wooden Legacy (.879 by Portland in 2016).
• Wake Forest’s Olivier Sarr had a double-double (21 points and 13 rebounds) coming off the bench… it was his second double-double of the tournament (both as a reserve), and just one other player in Wooden Legacy history has ever had a double-double as a reserve (Minnesota’s Colton Iverson against Butler in 2009)… he became the first player to have two double-doubles in one tournament since 2016 (UCLA’s Thomas Walsh).
• Olivier Sarr’s 13 rebounds in the championship game tied a Wooden Legacy record for most rebounds in a championship game, equaling the total by UTEP’s Vince Hunter against Washington in 2014.
• This tied the all-time series, as the only previous meeting was a 63-60 Wake Forest win in New York on 11/26/04.

Arizona (9-0)
• Arizona is off to its best start since 2014-15, when it began the year with 12 straight victories, the last time the Wildcats reached the NCAA Elite Eight.
• Dylan Smith led Arizona with 20 points, his best in a Wildcat uniform and fifth time in his career he has had 20+ points.
• Chase Jeter scored 17 points to go with nine rebounds.. his last two games have been two of his top seven scoring performances in his career.

Wake Forest (5-3)
• Wake Forest shot just 19-59 (.322) FG in the game, which was the lowest ever in a Wooden Legacy championship game… the Demon Deacons began the game shooting 7-12 (.583), but from there just went 12-47 (.255).
• The Wake Forest bench shot 10-20 (.500) FG for 30 points, while the starters combined for 9-39 (.231) FG and 36 points.
• Brandon Childress scored 19 points, his 11th straight game and 53rd career game scoring in double figures… he tied a career high with 18 FGAs.