Arizona Basketball

UA’s scoring last two years symbolic of NCAA’s epidemic

Sean Miller wants the Wildcats to play with more confidence

Sean Miller wants the Wildcats to be assertive with their shots, especially if they are open

Sunday’s ticker showed a near flat-line for college basketball scoring in games involving the nation’s best programs.

No. 3 Miami 45, Clemson 43

No. 12 Louisville 59, South Florida 41

No. 20 Wisconsin 71, No. 13 Ohio State 49

Arizona managed a 68-64 win over Utah, which by that day’s standard was a Loyola Marymount game when Paul Westhead coached the run-and-gun, defense-be-damned program.

It was the ninth time the Wildcats have scored in the 60s this season. They have two games in the 50s, including Thursday’s humbling 71-58 loss at Colorado. They scored a season-low 57 points at Washington — tomorrow’s opponent at McKale Center — yet won the game 57-53 only 20 days ago.

The two games in the 50s is a marked improvement over last year when the UA did that nine times, including the last two against Colorado (53-51 loss in the Pac-12 tournament title game) and Bucknell (65-54 loss in the NIT first round game at McKale).

Arizona is averaging 73.6 points a game, almost five points more a game than last season’s 69.0 mark. If the season ended today, the Wildcats’ two-year total of 142.6 points would be the lowest two-year span since Lute Olson’s 1984-85 and 1985-86 teams combined for 137.1 points. That was Olson’s second and third years at Arizona, a program he was rebuilding from the ground up.

The 45-second shot clock was instituted in 1985-86 and the three-point line was introduced a season later, so we are experiencing the lowest scoring stretch for Arizona basketball since those major rule changes.

ESPN commentator Jay Bilas says NCAA games are brutal to watch right now

ESPN commentator Jay Bilas says NCAA games are brutal to watch right now

It is an epidemic affecting the entire NCAA.

“Our game is brutal to watch right now,” Jay Bilas, an analyst for ESPN, was quoted as saying in an article written by AP college basketball writer Paul Newberry.

Newberry provides great detail concerning the dwindling scores of college hoops.

“In case you haven’t noticed — and how could you not? — scoring hasn’t been this low since at least 1982, and one has to go all the way back to the early 1950s to find another season that beats this one for offensive ineptitude,” Newberry writes. “Field-goal percentages are at 1960s levels. Three-point shooting has never been this bad since the long-range line was added in the 1980s.”

The 110 combined points by Arizona and Washington in Seattle three weeks ago, was the lowest total by the two usual high-output programs since Olson’s first season in 1983-84. The UA lost 56-51 in Seattle after losing 55-53 to the Huskies a month earlier in Tucson.

At least the Wildcats have not dipped into the 40s this season like Ohio State and Miami did on Sunday. Arizona has not produced that low since losing 71-49 at UCLA in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight season under Sean Miller in 2010-11. The Wildcats lost 63-46 at San Diego State in Miller’s first season of 2009-10.

Olson had six games in the 40s in his first two seasons at Arizona, all of them losses, including a 50-41 loss to Alabama in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 1985. The only other time Arizona scored in the 40s under Olson was a 48-43 victory at Marquette on Dec. 18, 2004. Olson benched prolific scoring guard Salim Stoudamire in that game for disciplinary reasons associated with Stoudamire’s demeanor after attempting a career-low one field-goal attempt a week earlier against Utah.

The Wildcats scored 105 points in a rout over Manhattan in the next game. With a scorer and pure shooter back in the lineup, the Wildcats returned to their high-octane ways under Olson.

Miller is in search of consistent scorers and shooters on this year’s team. A 21-4 record is reflective of how the UA has taken advantage of opponent’s shortcomings in this day and age of low-output basketball.

In the hopes of jump-starting his offense and getting more production from his bench, Miller told The Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe on Sunday that he now intends to play reserve guard Gabe York more. Miller played York sparingly during the Wildcats’ trip to Washington and WSU, but York has not played in the Wildcats’ last four games.

“We’ll take anything,” Miller told Pascoe. “Catch it when it’s thrown to you. Make free throws. If you’re an open shooter, get a good look from three and take it.”

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner

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