Arizona Basketball

Arizona continues its defensive lapses and struggles at USC before facing UCLA

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G: Games played. S: Number of starts.
BP: Bench points. A player gets three points if he is first off the bench, two if second and one if third. Shows Sean Miller’s rotation.
USC: Productivity points against USC
UMIN: Minutes played against USC
PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
TMIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)
NOTE: Player must average at least 10 minutes a game to be listed in primary rotation

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Sean Miller said Arizona's worst defensive performance of the season came at the worse time

Sean Miller said Arizona’s worst defensive performance of the season came at the worse time

This was not a case of looking ahead, although Arizona is now 6-9 against USC in Los Angeles before it prepares for rival UCLA since Lute Olson was hired in 1983-84. Sean Miller is now 0-3 in his four years with the Wildcats when the UA plays the Trojans first on this road trip.

The Wildcats have been in this trap situation before, most notably in their championship season of 1996-97 and when they were ranked No. 1 late in the following season of 1997-98. Arizona lost at USC each of those years before before playing UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.

Although USC traditionally is less of an opponent than UCLA — including this season — the Wildcats can blame their inexplicable 89-78 loss last night to defensive breakdowns. One snapshot of the game was Nick Johnson losing his footing while trying to guard Jio Fontan, who took advantage of the open space and drained a three-pointer in the second half.

“Our perimeter defense was poor at best,” Miller told Brian Jeffries in the Wildcat Sports Network radio post-game show.

“It was our worst defensive performance of the year and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.”

If Arizona was unable to focus and heed to Miller’s demands because of the upcoming rematch against the Bruins with ESPN’s College GameDay at Pauley Pavilion, than the Wildcats are in disrepair because a Pac-12 title is at stake with two weeks left. Listening to Miller’s tone of voice with Jeffries, the Wildcats’ coaches may not be in panic mode, but they are concerned.

The Wildcats won 12 games without a loss in the non-conference portion of the schedule, which will get them a favorable seed in the NCAA tournament. But they have struggled against top competition in the Pac-12 and have yet to win 12 games in the conference through 16 games.

Nick Johnson played only 23 minutes against USC and sat late in key stretches of the game

Nick Johnson played only 23 minutes against USC and sat late in key stretches of the game

The Wildcats are 3-5 against Pac-12 teams with winning conference records and one of those wins against Colorado at McKale Center was by a fraction of a second. Sabatino Chen’s potential game-winner at the buzzer was ruled to be a fraction of a second too late.

USC, which has better talent than its 13-15 record indicates, shot 61.1 percent from the field, including 65.2 percent in the second half. Nobody could guard Trojans forward Eric Wise, who made 9-of-12 shots from the field and finished with a season-high 22 points. The Wildcats have allowed career- and season-high totals to Wise, Chen and Colorado’s Xavier Johnson this season.

Cal’s Allen Crabbe scored 31 points against Arizona, his highest output in a Pac-12 game this season.

Solomon Hill ironically had one of his better games defensively with five steals against the Trojans. Hill and Kevin Parrom played mostly as seniors should — combining for 53 productivity points in 65 minutes — but the rest of the Wildcats had 48 productivity points.

The Wildcats are built on balance. They need more than two players to perform in order for them to win. Arizona’s starting backcourt of Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson can be one of the nation’s best, but they must play more consistent on both ends of the floor.

Johnson’s struggles in the Pac-12 mirrors Arizona’s decline following its 12-0 non-conference start. He has a .496 productivity rating in Pac-12 games after posting a .682 mark in the non-conference schedule.

His defense on the perimeter sets the tone for the Wildcats. He played only 23 minutes against USC and sat on the bench late in the game when Arizona tried to get back in the game.

Bruce Pascoe of The Arizona Daily Star asked Miller about Johnson’s recent shortcomings after the loss to USC.

“We’re going to work hard to get Nick back playing well,” Miller told Pascoe, who then asked if Johnson is carrying too much of a burden as the top defender and having to shoot well and score on the other end.

“I don’t know. One thing we can do to help his fatigue is not play him as much.”


The Wildcats were also out-rebounded by USC 34-29, the most they have been out-rebounded since Dec. 15 when Florida won the battle of the boards 33-22. The Trojans’ 29 defensive rebounds equaled Arizona’s overall total. That means the Wildcats struggled with many one-shot possessions en route to a 40 percent performance from the floor.

Just a bad night all around. The Wildcats have two days to prepare for UCLA, rather than only one as was the case in past conference schedules. That added time can only help.

Arizona is also 6-1 in the second game of the conference’s weekly schedule this season, but five of those wins were against the bottom teams in the conference — Utah, Washington State and Oregon State.

Defensive Rebounding Percentage (DRB%): Determined by dividing Arizona’s defensive rebounds (18 against USC) by the opposition’s offensive rebounds (USC had only five mostly because of its hot shooting) added to Arizona’s defensive rebounds (18) — 18/(5 + 18) = 78.2 percent.

Offensive Rebounding Percentage (ORB%): Determined by taking Arizona’s offensive rebound total (11) divided by that total (11) and the defensive rebounds of the opponent (29 for USC) — 11/(11 + 29) = 27.5 percent.

Ideal marks are 72 percent DRB% and 38 percent ORB%.

NEXT UP: Arizona at UCLA, March 2
USC 89, Arizona 78
— Solomon Hill 31 PP/38 MIN
Arizona 73, Washington State 56
— Kevin Parrom 32 PP/33 MIN
Arizona 70, Washington 52
— Solomon Hill 29 PP/33 MIN
Arizona 68, Utah 64
— Brandon Ashley 18 PP/22 MIN
Colorado 71, Arizona 58
— Angelo Chol 14 PP/20 MIN
California 77, Arizona 69
— Brandon Ashley 21 PP/29 MIN
Arizona 73, Stanford 66
— Mark Lyons 41 PP/36 MIN
Arizona 79, Washington State 65
— Mark Lyons 22 PP/23 MIN
Arizona 57, Washington 53
— Nick Johnson 26 PP/34 MIN
Arizona 74, USC 50
— Solomon Hill 22 PP/24 MIN
UCLA 84, Arizona 73
— Nick Johnson 29 PP/33 MIN
Arizona 71, Arizona State 54
— Mark Lyons 34 PP/31 MIN
Arizona 80, Oregon State 70
— Brandon Ashley 19 PP/22 MIN
Oregon 70, Arizona 66
— Mark Lyons 24 PP/37 MIN
Arizona 60, Utah 57
— Solomon Hill 29 PP/35 MIN
Arizona 92, Colorado 83 (OT)
— Kevin Parrom 28 PP/34 MIN
Arizona 68, San Diego State 67
— Kevin Parrom 28 PP/26 MIN
Arizona 69, Miami 50
— Kevin Parrom 21 PP/21 MIN
Arizona 73, East Tennessee State 53
— Brandon Ashley 27 PP/22 MIN
Arizona 89, Oral Roberts 64
— Grant Jerrett 24 PP/21 MIN
Arizona 65, Florida 64
— Solomon Hill 31 PP/37 MIN
Arizona 66, Clemson 54
— Mark Lyons 30 PP/33 MIN
Arizona 63, Southern Mississippi 55
— Kevin Parrom 19 PP/30 MIN
Arizona 85, Texas Tech 57
— Solomon Hill 26 PP/26 MIN
Arizona 93, NAU 50
— Nick Johnson 27 PP/22 MIN
Arizona 94, Long Beach State 72
— Brandon Ashley 40 PP/24 MIN
Arizona 72, UTEP 51
— Mark Lyons 21 PP/25 MIN
Arizona 82, Charleston Southern 73
— Brandon Ashley 26 PP/24 MIN

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


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