Our Greatest Games series is a look back at some of the most memorable single game performances by some of the best players in Arizona basketball history. Make sure to check PGU for the next installment.
Jerryd Bayless was the only Lute Olson recruit to ever go one-and-done but in his short time at Arizona, he put together one of the most prolific freshman seasons in school history. Known for his fierce attitude and unstoppable scoring runs, Bayless was one of the most talented offensive players to play at Arizona.
Here is a look at a few games that stood out from his single year as a Wildcat, in which he led the team with 19.7 PPG while averaging four assists.
December 9, 2007, Arizona 78, Illinois 72 (OT)
20 points (6-17 FG, 6-6 FT), 5 assists, 2 steals
Two days after learning that Coach Olson would not return in the 2007-08 season, Arizona played Illinois in front of a large, hostile crowd in Chicago. The Wildcats were in need of a statement non-conference win, after falling to Virginia and Kansas in the prior weeks.
Arizona was locked in a low-scoring battle through regulation and it took a Jordan Hill putback with seven seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. From there, Bayless displayed the type of confidence not usually held by an inexperienced freshman. The point guard smoothly hit all six of his free throws in the final 31 seconds which proved to be the difference in a pivotal win.
January 12, 2008, Arizona 85, Houston 71
33 points (18-20 FT), 9 assists, 1 steal
Though a leg injury kept him out of a road game at Memphis against Derrick Rose and the Wildcats’ first Pac-10 victory against Oregon State, Jerryd Bayless returned in grand fashion in Arizona’s blowout at Houston.
Early in the game, Cougars guard Robert McKiver tried to get under Bayless’ skin by talking trash. As Arizona’s star freshman would say after the game, “He just didn’t know who he was talking to.”
Bayless responded to McKiver’s jabs by getting to the free throw line time after time after time, eventually setting a then school record with 18 made attempts from the charity stripe, passing a previous mark set by Miles Simon. The most impressive part about Bayless’ performance might have been that he had only practiced with the team one time since straining his right knee a few weeks prior.
February 10, 2008, Arizona State 59, Arizona 54
39 points (12-18 FG, 6-10 3PT), 3 assists
In one of the more dismal performances in the history of the so-called rivalry, Arizona was unable to get anything going offensively against the Sun Devils, who stunned and silenced the McKale crowd behind Jeff Pendergraph’s 29 points.
But if the game provided any solace, it was the affirmation of just how valuable Jerryd Bayless was to the team. The guard scored 39 of Arizona’s 54 points and without him, the Wildcats went 3-23 from the field. That’s 13%.
That number seems inconceivable considering Arizona had three future NBA players. However, without Nic Wise who had just undergone knee surgery, Arizona couldn’t find any rhythm.
If not for Bayless’ offensive barrage – his 39 points were two short of the McKale scoring record set by Al Flemming in 1976, it’s scary to think how bad of a beating ASU could have put on the home team. Without Bayless, it might have been Arizona’s worst defeat ever at the hands of ASU.