Miller earns 100th win with Wildcats in NIT-opening rout

TUCSON, Ariz. — One hundred for No. 100. How appropriate.

Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller picked up his century-mark victory Monday as his Wildcats defeated Fairleigh Dickinson 100-50 at McKale Center for its first win of the pPreseason NIT.

“It feels good,” said Miller, who is now 100-43 in his five-plus seasons at Arizona. “It’s better to celebrate than not be at that number. Hopefully there is many more to come here and beyond.”

That’s all but a surety for the No. 5 Wildcats (4-0). Particularly when they play as they did Monday.

The buzzword was balance. Six players scored in double figures, with sophomore Gabe York leading the way with 20 points. He was an efficient 8 for 11 from the floor, hitting 4 of 6 from 3-point range.

Nick Johnson followed with 16 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 13, Brandon Ashley finished with 11, and Aaron Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski each had 10.

“As you can see we are all within the same point range, rebounds and even defense,” said York. “We’re really good and athletic. That’s going to take us far this year. We can all play different positions, and that’s going to help us out.”

It also allowed for Miller to go deep into his lineup, using 15 players.

They hit 100 when freshman guard Elliott Pitts hit a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left. It was Pitts’ first action this season after suffering a wrist injury earlier this month.

“Elliott played well,” Miller said. “We didn’t redshirt him because we thought he could be a factor for us this year.”

He finished with five points and two assists.

But it was York, T.J. McConnell and the rest who made the game a runaway.

“We want to keep getting out in transition,” Miller said. “I don’t say, ‘Wow’ because I feel that’s who we have to be. The more we can get out in transition with our defense, the better our team is.”

Against the outmatched Knights, Arizona’s run came early.

In fact, it came twice.

The first came before Fairleigh Dickinson could settle in — although the Knights looked comfortable when it was 10-10 just a few minutes into the game.

Then it hit. Arizona outscored the Knights 41-14 the remainder of the first half.

Game over.

“The way our team is we have to go full throttle every step of the way
and every second of the game,” York said. “We have to play 100 percent,
and that’s the way Coach taught us when we got here. It became that the
way that our team acted.”

When York took a pass from McConnell — his second of four
consecutive assists — and slammed it home, the lead was 47-21. A couple possessions later, Hollis-Jefferson jammed home an alley-oop pass for the final basket of the half.

“It’s great to play when you’re rolling and got it going
on and your teammates are pushing it,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “We’re
getting fast-break dunks and transition threes. All those things are
great. You want to have plays like that. It’s great to see us playing
like that.”

If the first half run wasn’t good enough – and clearly it was – Arizona
went on a 26-8 run to put no doubt in the rout. And little doubt Miller
would reach win No. 100.

“It’s great for him,” York said. “He’s a
great coach. I think he’s going to get more victories …obviously. One
hundred is not where he’ll end at.”

“They are obviously a Final Four caliber team,” said Fairleigh Dickinson guard Matt McDonald. “For us, since we are so young, we need to focus on getting better every day and take some good out of this game.”

It will be Rhode Island’s turn on Tuesday when the second round of the 16-team tournament resumes. The Wildcats host Rhode Island in McKale Center at 9 p.m.

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