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Sugar, sugar: Jordin Mayes’ sweet shooting leads Arizona over Duquesne

Jordin Mayes drives to the basket against Duke's Kyrie Irving in the NCAA Sweet 16. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The one thing anyone can say about Arizona Wildcats sophomore guard Jordin Mayes is that he has a sweet shot.

And yet …

“He gets no sugar,” coach Sean Miller said.

You probably know what he means by that, and it’s ironic that Mayes’ big night against Duquesne — 19 points in a 67-59 victory at McKale Center on Wednesday night — came on a day in which Arizona was being celebrated for having the nation’s top-rated recruiting class.

Mayes wasn’t one of those headline-making recruits, coming in last season with another middlin’ prospect — junior college power forward Jesse Perry — who has worked out pretty well. The top recruit in that class — guard Daniel Bejarano — already transferred out to Colorado State. Go figure.

“He came here, and no one asked me about him. He just did his job,” Miller said of Mayes, who averaged 4.9 points last season as a backup to MoMo Jones.

“Year 1 became Year 2, still no sugar.”

All that recruiting love and buzz at point guard went to freshman Josiah Turner, the highest-ranked of Arizona’s four recruits. Turner started both exhibitions and the season opener vs. Valparaiso, but he was late for a shootaround Wednesday, so he didn’t start.

Mayes did for the first time in his career.

“Jordin Mayes was the storyline of the game,” Miller said. “If he doesn’t shoot the ball the way he does, and play the way he does under pressure, I don’t know if he win.”

For sure, Mayes fueled the Wildcats in the key stretch of the game — a 3-pointer with 5:34 to play, 2 of 3 free throws with 5:08 to go and another 3-pointer with 4:34 left.

Just like that, Arizona’s lead went from one point to nine points.

“It’s one of the high-point games in my career,” Mayes said. “I have to thank my teammates for getting me involved and just finding me.”

Mayes had 14 points in the second half; he finished with 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.

Miller says the experience Mayes gained last season, when he averaged 14 minutes, has carried over to this season, even if his progress was interrupted this summer by a broken foot that cost him about three months of conditioning.

But here’s the carryover. He was, as you might recall, on fire in the NCAA Tournament, including going 4 of 4 from the 3-point line vs. Texas.

Going back eight games, Mayes is shooting 64 percent from 3-point land (16 of 25).

That deserves a lot of a sugar.

“Coach keeps talking to me, staying in my ear, hyping me up to play better and better every game,” Mayes said.

Miller wasn’t ready to commit to any change in the starting lineup at point guard, saying that much will be determined in practice before Sunday’s game against Ball State. Mayes and Turner played some at the same time Wednesday night, with the freshman at the point and Mayes as the shooting guard.

“We’re going to compete regardless of who is starting,” Mayes said. “We know that he came in with a name, but in college there are a lot of great players.”

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