TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)—Jerryd Bayless scored 20 points in Arizona’s 81-62 victory over UMKC on Monday night and fell one rebound and one assist shy of the 10th triple-double in Arizona’s storied basketball history.
“I was that close?” he said. “I didn’t know that. I just go out and play.”
Bayless, a freshman from Phoenix, has led the Wildcats in scoring in two of his first three college games. Bayless hit 5-of-7 shots from the floor and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line.
“No matter who you’re playing, by a freshman that’s a great night,” interim coach Kevin O’Neill said.
Noting Bayless’ six turnovers, O’Neill joked, “He missed a quadruple double by four turnovers also. He was very close to getting the quadruple.”
Teammate Jawann McClellan was most impressed with the 6-foot-3 Bayless’ nine rebounds.
“He is so tough,” McClellan said. “He is not going to back down from anybody.”
Bayless’ big night came a few hours after Arizona dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25. The Wildcats opened the season at No. 17 but lost at home on Saturday night to Virginia, which wasn’t ranked at the time.
“I’m not sure we were No. 17 to begin with anyway,” O’Neill said. “I hope we’re concerned with the final ones rather than two weeks in.”
It was Arizona’s third game under O’Neill, who took over when Lute Olson went on a personal leave of absence.
Daniel Dillon scored a career-high 14 points, hitting all four of his field goal attempts, including three 3-pointers, and all three of his free throws. Jordan Hill added 14 points for the Wildcats (2-1), who shot 64.1 percent from the floor.
Brent Stephens scored 16 points and Reggie Hamilton added 11 for UMKC (1-3).
Early on, the listless Wildcats struggled against a team that lost its opener to Kansas by 23 points and lost by 15 at Northern Arizona on Saturday night. UMKC went on a 16-5 run midway through the first half to take a 20-16 lead with 6:44 to play.
Arizona regained the lead on a 7-0 run by Bayless, who hit a 3-point shot and made four straight free throws in a 42-second span.
Arizona led 37-29 at halftime despite having nearly as many turnovers (9) as field goals (11).
The Wildcats found their stride offensively after halftime. Bayless, Chase Budinger and Laval Lucas-Perry each hit 3-pointers to spark a 12-4 run that gave Arizona a comfortable 49-33 lead three minutes into the second half.
“I think we picked up the pace and started working harder,” Bayless said. “We need to execute our stuff a lot more.”
UMKC, which shot 35 percent from the floor, never threatened again.
“I thought we had some really good looks at the basket,” UMKC coach Matt Brown said. “The ball wouldn’t go down,”
Arizona’s soft interior game was exposed again. The Kangaroos dominated the paint, outscoring Arizona 25-7 on second-chance points. Arizona also gave up 15 offensive rebounds.
The Wildcats needed a game against an overmatched opponent. They had lost five of their last six home games against major conference opponents, including a 75-72 loss to Virginia on Saturday night.
“Any win, to me, is nice,” O’Neill said. “I’ve seen us improve over three games. We still have a long ways to go. Our guys just can’t have mental lapses and take plays off.”
The Wildcats play host to Adams State on Wednesday night, their third game in five nights. They visit No. 4 Kansas on Nov. 25.