McClellan finds touch as ASU routed
How did Jawann McClellan get his groove back?
He sat out two Arizona practices and had a “good talk” with head coach Lute Olson on Monday.
It was a double dose of exactly what McClellan needed. After all, he was out of sync and out of service for 20 days.
Then came Wednesday night, when the junior found his rhythm and range, hitting 4 of 7 shots, all from 3-point range. He finished with 14 points in Arizona’s 71-47 rout of Arizona State in front of the loudest McKale Center crowd of the season.
It was Arizona’s 11th consecutive win over the Sun Devils and 23rd in 24 games.
The task gets tougher on Saturday when No. 17 UA (14-5, 5-4) hosts No. 4 North Carolina at 11 a.m.
Another good game from McClellan will be needed to win.
“I’m the emotional leader of this team and I hadn’t shown emotion in the five losses we had,” he said.
Because of it, and the shooting slump that saw him go 0 for 15 from 3-point range, Olson decided to sit McClellan down and have a talk.
McClellan is playing on bad knees after surgery last spring. Olson told him to take better care of his knees outside of practice and to lose 5 to 7 pounds so the knees would have less of a load.
Olson then touched on the obvious: the slump.
“I just told him, ‘You’re a shooter. Shoot,’ ” Olson said. “The only way you’re going to mess your shot up is if you think too much.”
That’s all McClellan had been doing: thinking about missing and not performing. It had him in an offensive abyss.
His emotions came out and he began to exorcise the shooting demons when he hit his second attempt at a 3 Wednesday.
Just after he hit it with 6:10 remaining in the first half, he raised his arms in relief. It gave UA a 20-18 lead.
“I was like . . . thank you, Jesus,” McClellan said.
He said he’d held in that emotion for some time, probably because he had plenty of calls from his family and friends as they asked about the slump.
“You try not to think about all the misses you have, but when you have people back home calling you and calling you, asking what’s wrong, it’s tough,” he said.
McClellan’s roommate, Mustafa Shakur, said the calls were from people who were just trying to show support.
“He really came on,” Shakur said. “It was something we definitely were missing.”
McClellan hit a couple of key 3s late in the first half to help turn a close game into a 37-26 UA halftime lead.
McClellan said he was also helped by a conversation with associate head coach Jim Rosborough early on Wednesday.
“Coach Roz talked to me and said it’s a privilege to have pressure on you,” McClellan said. “I took that as a compliment because people know what I can do. I feel good knocking down shots.”
All the Wildcats seemed to feel good Wednesday night, save for Marcus Williams, who sat out the game because he violated team rules, Olson said.
Williams is expected back for the North Carolina contest.
So is junior forward Bret Brielmaier, who has made a strong recovery from knee surgery three weeks ago.
Arizona may have found some help near the basket in freshman forward Jordan Hill, who started Wednesday.
He scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Hill would have had his first career double-double, but UA reserve David Bagga pulled a rebound away from him in the final seconds.
“I said from the start he’s going to be a really, really good player,” Olson said of Hill. “He has played only two years of high school ball, so he has a lot to learn.
“But he’s like a sponge. Every day in practice, there is never a case where you are talking about something and you look at him and he’s not right there with you.
“This game will help him a great deal with confidence.”
Hill’s one low point Wednesday may have been when he hit teammate Mohamed Tangara in the face late in the first half as Hill attempted to block a shot.
Tangara was taken to University Medical Center for observation at halftime.
It’s not clear how serious the injury is.
Freshman Chase Budinger had a double-double for Arizona. He finished with a team-high 21 points and 10 boards.
The Wildcats outrebounded ASU 34-24 for the game.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Player of the game
UA’s Jawann McClellan, who broke out of a slump with 14 points and hit four 3-pointers.
To Wildcat Jordan Hill, who made his first start and played a career-high 32 minutes.
To ASU, which shot 34.7 percent and lost for the 23rd time in 24 games to UA.
UA outscored ASU 12-0 at the end of the first half to begin the rout. McClellan had eight of the points.
By the numbers
5 – points by ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph, who was averaging 13.1
32 – minutes played by UA’s Jordan Hill, a season high
50 – percentage shot by UA. It was the first time the Wildcats shot at least 50 percent in six games.