TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona whipped crisp passes around McKale Center, threw lobs for dunks, dropped in 3-pointers. The Wildcats buzzed on defense, jumping into passing lanes, flying in to block and alter shots.
As bounce-back games go, this was just what Arizona needed heading into a massive nonconference game this weekend.
Josh Green and Chase Jeter had 15 points each, helping No. 15 Arizona bounce back from its first loss of the season with a 99-49 rout over Nebraska-Omaha on Wednesday night.
Up next is No. 6 Gonzaga at home in a showdown between two of the West’s best programs.
“We took care of what we needed to,” Wildcats Sean Miller said. “We were able to do a number of things we’re trying to be better at. Obviously, we have a big test on Saturday.”
The Wildcats (10-1) returned to McKale Center for the first time in 17 days with a dominating performance, jumping on Omaha with a big opening run and keeping their foot on gas.
Arizona shot 58%, had 25 assists on 38 field goals and had a 44-20 advantage in the paint.
Arizona’s Nico Mannion had 13 points and 11 assists, and Dylan Smith scored all 14 of his points in the first half.
“It was really good for us to bounce back,” Mannion said. “We were really hitting hard the defensive side of the ball, getting stops and the offense moved the ball.”
The Mavericks (5-7) continued to take their lumps in a road-heavy nonconference season that included games against Wichita State, No. 14 Dayton, Colorado State, Washington State and Saint Mary’s. They did manage to pull off an 85-77 win over Washington State, but lost 75-63 loss to Northern Arizona on Sunday.
Omaha was no match for the long, athletic Wildcats, digging a big hole early it never recovered from.
Omaha’s KJ Robinson had 15 points, and Matt Pile finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Mavericks, who shot 27% with leading scorer J.T. Gibson unavailable.
“They’re obviously very talented and coming off a loss is a bad time to catch a team,” Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said. “Of course they can shoot and they can do a lot of things, but what really impressed was what they did defensively. I thought they were very active.”
Arizona suffered its first loss on Saturday, fighting back from a shaky first half before losing 63-58 to No. 11 Baylor.
The Wildcats were not only looking for a bounce back but to tighten things up before a showdown with No. 6 Gonzaga Saturday night.
Arizona took care of both from the opening tip against Omaha.
The Wildcats opened with 15-4 run and led 43-23 at halftime after making 19 of 27 shots. Smith, who was 1 for 8 against Baylor, made four of 6 from 3-point range .
The Mavericks had trouble with Arizona’s length on offensie, hitting 10 of 33 shots, but Robinson did drain a long 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
“We struggled to throw it into Matt with their length and we struggled to drive it in with their length and people in the gap,” Hansen said. “When you take those two things away from us, it makes it difficult.”
Arizona opened the second half by making eight of its first 12 shots to build the lead to 63-31 and cruise from there.
Omaha was no match for Arizona in one of college basketball’s toughest environments, but the experience should help the Mavericks once the Summit League season starts.
Arizona was able to wash away some of the taste from the letdown and get some momentum headed into Saturday’s game against the Zags.
Miller has tried to find ways to get freshman center Christian Koloko some playing time, sprinkling the 7-footer in for a few minutes here and there.
Koloko had arguably his best game of the season against Omaha, grabbing 10 rebounds and scoring five points in nearly 13 minutes.
“Christian has been ready every time we’ve called on him,” Jeter said. “To be able to come into a game like that after a stretch of games not being able to play that much, it’s easy for a guy in a situation like that to get frustrated. For him to be able to come out and respond like that is amazing.”
Omaha hosts Texas-Rio Grande Valley on Sunday.
Arizona hosts. No. 6 Gonzaga on Saturday.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25