ANAHEIM, Calif. - Sean Miller has been saying Josiah Turner has improved his "everyday" effort, and Thursday it was clear the on-court component is better, too.
Nearly two months after Turner first lost his starting job, and a month after Miller left him home during the Wildcats' trip to Florida, Turner reappeared in the starting lineup against UCLA.
Even though Jordin Mayes started the Wildcats' Pac-12 opener against ASU on Dec. 31, Turner apparently had been making his move after UA players returned from Christmas break on Dec. 26.
"He's earned it with practice and in arguably the hardest week of practice we've had -- leading into the Arizona State game, he had the most points through those six or seven days," Miller said. "He's playing better in games and to me he's really doing a better job. That's not to take away anything from Jordin Mayes is doing; he's still really important to what we do. But Josiah is continuing to develop and hopefully that development will make us a better team. "
While UA did not disclose why Turner did not make the Florida trip, it did disclose that he was late to a pregame shootaround before its Nov. 9 game with Duquesne.
The way Miller spoke on Thursday, Turner has made progress both on and off the court.
"No question," Miller said. "He's practicing better. His mind's in the right place. His heart's in the right place. He's trying to win and trying to do the best he can. He deserves a lot of credit for that. He's a really good kid and to me he's learned some valuable lessons and hopefully the best is yet to come for him."
Turner said that he was "trying to stay with a positive attitude and not go against the coach," something that wasn't always the case a month or two ago.
"At the beginning of the year, I obviously struggled a little bit," Turner said.
Turner offered some perspective on his former travel-ball teammate, Nick Johnson, who had two points on 1-for-6 shooting and missed all four three-pointers he took.
"He wasn't feeling it tonight," Turner said. "I guess they were trying to deny him the ball but they were playing really tight on him, trying to take away his dribble pull up. He'll be better next time."
Johnson was not among the UA players selected for postgame interviews (it was Turner, Solomon Hill and Angelo Chol this time).
Hill cracked down hard on himself for a first half in which he had two points, three rebounds and three assists to one turnover.
"I've just got to get to it," Hill said. "I didn't play well in the first half. I was overthinking. I look at how they are playing me and how I can attack them. The (Wear) twins are a hard matchup. When they put their hands up they're like 7-3. You just can't expect to finish over them; you've got to go around them. Kind of like Derrick (Williams) did - when a guy was small he would go over him but he was good at going around guys and that's what I had to do in the second half."
Hill responded with 14 points and eight rebounds in the second half to finish with his fourth career double-double and second in a row.
The bottom line for Miller?
"We're a small team and I wish we could grow, but that's who we are," Miller said. "We've been that way through the first 14 games and we've played some good basketball. Against the bigger, stronger teams there were times we struggled and sometimes we can negate it if we shoot the ball well and don't turn it over. If you turn it over and you don't shoot the three well and you're small -- well, that's really a hard combination. We had all three going against us."
UA made 3 of 17 threes (though UCLA was 1 for 9). The Wildcats turned the ball over 16 times. And Jesse Perry still had to give up three inches and Hill four inches to each of the Wear twins...
Miller noted that it put "a lot of pressure on our team" that Jesse Perry (4) and Solomon Hill (5) combined for nine turnovers - in addition to the three from Kyle Fogg.
More from Miller:
"It's tough when you're down seven points in the first half. They had 16 field goals in the first half. When you look at how those field goals came, a lot of them came in transition. It was good execution by UCLA and the Wear twins are two very good players. We're not the only team they've played well against. Tonight they had a bigger opportunity and they took advantage of it."
Wild night on many fronts in the Pac-12:
Oregon State took care of Cal in the cozy confines of Gill Coliseum.
And here's the official box score.