LOS ANGELES – When Arizona was 9-2 earlier this season, everything seemed right for the Wildcats.
Then freshman guard Jerryd Bayless suffered a knee injury that kept him out for four games. UA went 1-3 without him and suddenly a 10-5 record didn’t seem too hot.
Since his return, UA is 5-1, including an 80-69 win at USC on Thursday night.
“We’ve won 13 out of (the past) 14 with Jerryd,” interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said. “We had a stretch of games where we didn’t play well because Jerryd didn’t play.”
Bayless didn’t have one of his better nights – he was 4 for 9 with 10 points – but he guided his team to another win.
O’Neill said he thinks the same about the Wildcats as he did when they were 9-2.
“We were very confident then and (now) we’re starting to get a feel for each other,” O’Neill said.
It will help to have Bret Brielmaier back, which could happen Saturday at No. 5 UCLA.
Brielmaier is nursing a shoulder injury, and O’Neill said he didn’t play Thursday because “he just isn’t ready. I’m going to play him every game he’s ready no matter who we’re playing because every win you can get in this league is huge.”
Nic is wise
UA sophomore guard Nic Wise went 3 for 6 from the floor Thursday, including 3 for 5 from 3-point range.
The bigger stat may have been his assist-to-turnover ratio, 8-0.
“Wise is very improved from last year,” USC coach Tim Floyd said. “He kept them poised.”
As was the case with Jawann McClellan, Wise was able to do some things because USC keyed on Bayless and Chase Budinger, Wise said.
“It makes my game that much easier when they’re helping (defenders) so hard off Chase and Jerryd,” Wise said. “It freed me up for open shots.”