TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Wildcats bounced back nicely from a pair of tough losses in Maui.
Chase Jeter scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and the Wildcats rolled past Georgia Southern 100-70 on Thursday night in their first action since losing to Auburn at the Maui Invitational eight days earlier.
Coach Sean Miller said there was no way his players would react poorly to those Hawaii losses and seemed insulted to think anyone might believe they might.
“If you’re holding us to the standard of ‘I cannot believe you didn’t beat Auburn or Gonzaga,’ you’re on the planet Pluto,” Miller said, noting his team lost seven or eight of its best players from last season. “They’re really, really good teams. They (the Zags) are the No. 1 team in the nation and Auburn is going to be one of the top seeds. … We’re a team that’s going to lose a few but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a good team and a team that’s better than everybody thinks.”
Jeter, a transfer from Duke, made all four of his field goals and was 10-of-12 shooting at the foul line.
Alex Barcello added a career-best 16 points for Arizona (5-2), capped by the 3-pointer that gave the Wildcats 100 points.
Brandon Williams and Brandon Randolph scored 14 apiece and Dylan Smith 10 for Arizona, winner of its 51st straight nonconference home game.
Tookie Brown scored 17 for the Eagles (5-2), who lost their second straight after starting the season 5-0. David-Lee Jones Jr. added 11 and Simeon Carter 10 for Georgia Southern.
“We got off to a good start but I think it could have been better,” Eagles coach Mark Byington. “They got some offensive rebounds that we were a step slow to get, and that was the precursor to everything else that happened tonight.”
The Wildcats, who also lost to now-No. 1 Gonzaga in the Maui tournament, had 22 assists and just six turnovers in their win over Georgia Southern.
“We emphasized moving the ball more,” Smith said, “especially after we only had three assists against Gonzaga.”
Arizona got 47 points from its reserves.
“Our bench tonight was terrific,” Miller said. “We’re not going to get this type of production from them every night but I think it shows we’ve got a lot of different players who can come into the game and contribute.”
The Eagles, who never have beaten a Pac-12 school and were playing Arizona for the first time, jumped out to a 15-10 lead as the Wildcats made just four of their first 16 shots. But Williams sank two 3s and Justin Coleman had a steal and layup in a 12-3 run that put Arizona up 22-18 on Jeter’s inside basket with 8:42 left in the half.
The run reached 19-6 when Barcello made a driving layup to put Arizona ahead 29-21 6:28 before the break.
Georgia Southern cut the lead to 37-29 on Elijah McCadden’s jumper before the Wildcats finished the half with an 8-3 spurt, capped by Ryan Luther’s 3-pointer, to lead 45-32 at the break.
Jeter scored six straight points, the last on a pass from Williams, and Arizona led 54-36 with 17:23 to play.
Smith scored twice and Barcello had another steal and layup in a 6-0 spurt that gave the Wildcats a 72-46 lead with 11:45 left. Arizona led by as many as 34 after that.
Georgia Southern shot just 37 percent in the second half to Arizona’s 57 percent.
The Eagles are expected to challenge Georgia State in the Sun Belt but couldn’t match Arizona’s athleticism on the road, especially after traveling from Georgia following a game Tuesday night. Brown is expected to become the first player to earn all-Sun Belt Conference honors four times and looked the part in Tucson.
The Wildcats needed some time to brush off the cobwebs after their long layoff since Maui and Miller tinkered with his rotation looking for more help off the bench. The schedule gets tougher the next two weeks with trips to UConn and Alabama — with a home game against Utah Valley in between.
Georgia Southern is off until Dec. 8, when the Eagles play at Mercer.
Arizona is at UConn on Sunday.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25