Arizona’s “savvy” veterans shepherded youngsters to Wooden Legacy title

Anaheim, Calif., December 1, 2019 – Arizona may have a talented freshman class, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have some savvy veterans.

Three of those rookies are starters, but it was seniors Dylan Smith and Chase Jeter who shepherded the youngsters at the right times Sunday as the Wildcats scored a 73-66 victory over Wake Forest to claim the Wooden Legacy title at the Anaheim Arena.

“This accomplishment, we will carry it with us all year long,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “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.

“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.”

Even Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said the focal point of his defense would be on freshmen Nico Mannion, Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji.

The Demon Deacons then got a rude awakening from seniors Smith, Jeter and even grad transfer Max Hazzard.

“In our eyes, the big three were Nnaji, Green and Mannion,” Manning said. “I thought we did a decent job on them. Now Jeter and Smith, those were the guys we wanted to make shots, and tonight, they made shots.”

Smith, a starting guard, scored a team-high 20 points, making 6 of 9 shots from the field, including going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. Jeter made 7 of 10 shots and scored 17 with nine rebounds. Hazzard hit two 3-pointers and scored all eight of his points in the first half as Arizona took a 39-33 lead into the break.

Mannion, the tournament MVP, had nine points and seven assists. Nnaji had five points and eight rebounds. Josh Green had eight points and 12 rebounds.

“I would say we are really resilient,” Mannion said. “When everyone just buys in to the team game lot of good things can happen.”

Arizona (9-0) is off to its best start since the 2014-15 season, when the Wildcats reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. Wake Forest fell to 5-3.

Arizona twice led by 15 in the second half, but Wake Forest pulled to within four in the final minute despite shooting only 31 percent in the last 20 minutes.

“I thought we showed some grit,” Manning said. “We started rebounding the ball better in the second half as well. We weren’t really turning the ball over.

“We had some chances; we had a 10-0 run and a (17-6) run. It wasn’t enough to get us over the hump.”

Once again, the Demon Deacons were led by 7-foot reserve center Olivier Sarr, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds. He has started two of the eight games for Wake Forest, but has been at his best off the bench.

“I think he’s more comfortable coming off the bench for whatever reason,” Manning said. “When I was a player and I came in off the bench, I enjoyed seeing the flow of the game.”

Guard Brandon Childress added 19 points for Wake Forest but made only 4 of 18 shots.

The flow swayed Arizona’s way after they erased a 19-16 deficit with a 10-0 run capped by Jeter’s shot in the lane. The Wildcats never trailed again.

“Being able to come here and win it, it’s confidence and it’s important,” Miller said. “The other part is we played an ACC team tonight and deservedly so, that conference gets a lot of respect.”

Penn 95, Long Beach State 79 – AJ Brodeur, the Quakers’ leading scorer, didn’t need to fill up the hoop to take control. The senior forward did score 11 points but also had nine assists, five rebounds, four steals and three blocks as Penn bounced back from a semifinal loss to Arizona.

Jordan Dingle scored 21 to lead Penn (5-3) and Max Martz came off the bench to score 17, making five 3-pointers, or one more than he had made in the season’s first seven games. Devon Goodman added 16 points and seven assists.

“It’s been a great tournament for us,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “We had three seniors, and as you saw three freshmen, that have really stepped up and helped us well. These are experiences that help us in so many ways.”

Penn set a tournament record with 36 3-point tries after tying the record of 35 in the previous game. The Quakers also had 27 assists, one shy of the event record.

Guard Chance Hunter scored 21 of his game-high 24 points in the first half for the Beach (3-6), which fell behind by as many as 21 points in the second half. Guard Colin Slater added 18, forward Josh Morgan had 15 and seven rebounds and guard Michael Carter III finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

“If you told me when the week started that we were going to have a Big East win (over Providence) and play the way we did, I’d take it,” Long Beach coach Dan Monson said. “These three games we seem to be more comfortable knowing where guys are at.”

UCF 77, Charleston 56 – UCF took charge from the start and again relied on its depth in the wire-to-wire victory.

Center Collin Smith led the way with 19 points, nine rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block for the Knights (5-2), who won their final two games of the tournament. Dre Fuller Jr. added 13 points, Brandon Mahan had 12 and Frank Bertz 10 for UCF, which scored 29 points off the bench and committed only five turnovers.

“This was one of our most complete efforts,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We beat a very good Charleston team; they’ve played well in this tournament and played us well at our place. It was going to take an effort like this to be successful and our guys really stepped up.

“Collin has a really good basketball IQ and it starts there. He really does think the game out well and plays at his own pace. He rarely gets sped up and he is one of the best finishers I’ve ever coached.”

Guard Grant Riller again led the way for Charleston (4-4) with 17 points but he was the only Cougar to finish in double figures.

UCF held an 11-point halftime lead and led by as many as 23 points in the second half.

“I’m very disappointed that we couldn’t play a little bit better,” Charleston coach Earl Grant said. “Give Central Florida some credit. They have a big guy (Smith) that really dominated the game. They got the ball down to him and it was hard to slow him down.”

Providence 80, Pepperdine 77 – After calling his team “fractured” after two defeats, Providence coach Ed Cooley saw his team buckle down and hold off the Waves down the stretch.

“It’s just confidence,” Cooley said. “You know when you lose a couple in a row,; we lost a home game, lose a game basically at the buzzer, then you kind of feel down and get punched in the mouth by a great Charleston team, your confidence can be shaken.

“We didn’t practice yesterday . . . Sometimes less is more when you are dealing with young minds that are fragile and not feeling confident about themselves. . . . This morning, I felt like a psychologist.”

Center Nate Watson and guard A.J. Reeves each scored 15 points for the Friars (5-4), who built a 14-point lead in the second half only to see the advantage dwindle to two points on four separate occasions.

Guard Alpha Diallo added 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals for Providence and guard David Duke added 10 points.

Guard Colbey Ross scored 25 of his 29 points in the second half. The 25-point outburst in one half was one short of the tournament record held by James Harden of Arizona State.

Kessler Edwards had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Jan Zidek added 16 points for the Waves (3-6), who were playing without starting forward Kameron Edwards, who was sidelined with a broken nose he suffered in Friday’s game.

“What I’ve learned over the years in coaching when coaches say ‘Oh, we lost five games in overtime, we were doing really well and one of our guys went down.’ You weren’t good enough, that’s what that means,” Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar said. “So far, we have not been good enough. We have been competitive, but not good enough.”