ANAHEIM, CA – There aren’t many freshmen who have the confidence this early in the season to drive the length of the floor for the game-winning shot. Fortunately for Arizona, it has one in Nico Mannion.
Mannion went coast to coast and made a running layup that banked in high off the glass with 4 seconds remaining to lift the 14th-ranked Wildcats to a 93-91 victory over Pepperdine on Thursday night at the Wooden Legacy.
“Before I pushed it I was looking up the floor to Josh (Green) or Dylan (Smith) on the wing,” said Mannion, who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. “Once I got down there I was thinking it was going to be a shot or a quick kick out. I kind of floated it up and it went in.”
Colbey Ross’ off-balance jumper tied it at 91 before Mannion drove the floor for the winning basket. Ross’ heave from halfcourt went off the glass as time expired.
One person who wasn’t surprised by Mannion’s aggressiveness was his coach, Sean Miller, who saw the 6-foot-3 point guard make those types of plays when he was recruiting him.
“He’s made a lot of game-winners in his day. That’s who he is as a player,” Miller said. “He’s poised for a freshman. That was an old-school hook off the glass.”
The game featured 24 ties and 13 lead changes as both teams shot 50 percent or better from the floor and combined for 24 3-pointers.
Green led the Wildcats (7-0) with 24 points, while Zeke Ninaji had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Smith added 16 points.