LUBBOCK, Texas – Arizona coach Sean Miller is enjoying new heights with his No. 9 Wildcats this season, remembering how small his team's players were last year.
"Until you go through that 35-game season being small you don't realize how important size is, especially in quality players," the fourth-year coach said after Arizona beat Texas Tech 85-57 on Saturday night to remain unbeaten. "How that affects the game in so many ways and right now with this year's team we have that to our advantage."
Nick Johnson scored 18 points to lead the Wildcats, and Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons each added 14 points for Arizona. Kaleb Tarczewski pulled down 13 rebounds for the Wildcats (5-0).
"I think we're nowhere near where we need to be," Johnson said. "Every part of our game we can get better in and we're just going to keep on practicing and get better at that so we can be the best we can be."
Tarczewski and his teammates knew about the Red Raiders record of strong rebounding on offense.
"We knew we had to come out ready for that and really dominate from inside the offensive glass, defensive glass, everything," said the 7-foot freshman. "So that helped us got off to the quick start."
Texas Tech kept it close early but Arizona steadily pulled away for the easy win. The Wildcats, averaging 10 3-pointers a game coming into the contest, hit eight from beyond the arc on 22 attempts.
Jaye Crockett scored 12 points to lead Texas Tech (4-1).
The Wildcats dominated on the boards, pulling down 41 to the Red Raiders 26, and got 16 second-chance points. They also got 21 points off 16 Texas Tech turnovers. The Red Raiders fell well below their per-game point average. They came in averaging 88.8 points in each of their wins.
Trailing 53-30, the Red Raiders used a 12-2 run, including a 3-pointer by Daylen Robinson and field goals by Jamal Williams and Toddrick Gotcher to pull within 13 with about 13 minutes remaining in the game. But they couldn't whittle the deficit any more down the stretch.
Foul trouble hurt the Red Raiders.
"We needed the whole bench in the game," Crockett said. "We were moving so fast. They were running fast, and we were getting tired. We just needed everybody out there, and that hurts us a lot with the fouls."
The Wildcats answered with a 22-3 run, including a dunk by Johnson, two free throws by Lyons, a field goal by Hill and a 3-pointer by Grant Jerrett, to go up 77-45 with about five minutes remaining to seal the victory.
Arizona led 45-28 at the half. Texas Tech's first-half points were a season low.
The Wildcats hit five of six 3s during one stretch in the first half to go ahead 30-18. Hill and Lyons each hit two and Johnson had one during the spurt.
Tech got a quirky score in the first half after Tarczewski grabbed a rebound beneath the Red Raiders bucket. Dejan Kravic knocked it out of his hands and the ball went up in the air and into the basket for a Texas Tech score.
Texas Tech interim coach Chris Walker said his young team learned a lot.
"That was their chance to get a taste to see what high level division one basketball is about," he said. "I think that team is a final four team and that's a tall challenge for us right now, given where we are."