Arizona Basketball

Three top observations of Arizona Wildcats’ loss at Oregon State



Oregon State was tough off the dribble against Arizona in the upset.

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1. Sean Miller hints at playing zone defense in future.

Oregon State consistently broke down Arizona’s defense off the dribble, which forced Arizona coach Sean Miller to go small with what he hoped was a quicker lineup toward the end of the game.

That move did not work as the Beavers made 11 of 17 field goals in the second half, including a 3 of 5 effort from three-point range after Arizona’s defense was packed in too deep against Oregon State’s penetration. The Beavers’ winning layup by Langston Morris-Walker in a wide-open lane with 26 seconds left was the difference.

After Morris-Walker dribbled past Stanley Johnson, the only possible defender in his way was point guard T.J. McConnell, who was busy guarding his own man and not big enough to challenge the shot. Arizona did not have an inside presence with Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley on the bench.

Morris-Walker commented that he noticed Arizona’s defenders were scrambling and he took advantage of the open lane with his quickness.

“In essence, they play four guards,” Miller told Brian Jeffries in the KCUB-AM 1290-AM postgame show. “We decided to play small.

“They just picked on individual defenders, and we had a couple of guys really have bad, bad nights. We’ll mix in a zone. I know it will be, ‘They’re finally playing a zone’, but that’s not a solve-all.”

Ashley and Tarczewski struggled in the loss at UNLV defensively with repeated baskets by Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood against them in the lane. Miller told Jeffries that Oregon State “did what UNLV followed.”

Diminutive reserve point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright had one rebound, which is one more rebound than Tarczewski had in 23 minutes. Tarczewski was mostly out of his element, which is unfortunate for Arizona because he had a definite size advantage at 7’0″ and 245 pounds.


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Normally, Arizona’s defense strengthens as the game draws closer to a finish. Oregon State made 8 of its last 11 shots.

“We have to do what we do well and do that better,” Miller told Jeffries about the Wildcats’ defensive intensity.

2. As Stanley Johnson goes, so go the Wildcats?

After Morris-Walker’s go-ahead basket, Sean Elliott, the Arizona great who provided commentary for the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, said the Wildcats could not wait to take a shot. Arizona did just that as the Wildcats passed the ball around the perimeter, without a player stepping up until McConnell tried an off-balance shot with about two seconds remaining.

After wrestling for the rebound Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could not take a clean shot as the buzzer sounded.

In a rare game in which Arizona had more made free throws (18) than field goals (17), the Wildcats did not have a player get involved in the offensive flow except McConnell. Aside from the senior captain, who was 6 of 12 from the field, none of the other Wildcats made more than three field goals.

Johnson was only 2 of 4 from the field, with two of those attempts coming from three-point range. He was not the customary difference maker penetrating the lane and making the defense pay.

Hard to believe: In the last 16:30 of the game, Johnson attempted only one shot, a three-pointer that he made with 5:40 left in the game.


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Johnson also had a frustrating game in Arizona’s loss at UNLV. He made only 3 of 11 from the field and had a season-high seven turnovers.

He was not much involved in Arizona’s execution in the first half tonight when the Wildcats mustered only 21 points. He played only 10 minutes by halftime and attempted only one field goal because of two quick fouls.

3. What does the loss mean for Arizona?

Miller preaches the process and focusing on what the Wildcats “do well and do that better”. All the outside noise does not matter. He will drill that home for Arizona as it prepares for Colorado on Thursday night at McKale Center. The Wildcats have to concern themselves only about themselves

“We came up here and got a split,” Miller told Jeffries. “The important thing is putting this behind us and defending our home court.”

The fact that Oregon State had an RPI rating of 122 heading into the game is secondary for now. The Wildcats were one of three top 10 teams that lost on Sunday. No. 2 Duke had a miserable performance at North Carolina State and third-ranked Wisconsin (without an injured Frank Kaminsky) was upset at Rutgers.

That also does not matter. Arizona will remain highly ranked because of all the upsets and its 14-2 record. But rankings in January have absolutely no value.

With two losses on the road, each coming down to the last seconds, the Wildcats are not in dire straits. Moreover, Oregon State is 10-0 at home and 9-0 against the spread at Gill Coliseum. The Beavers (12-4) are legitimate at Corvallis. With how down the Pac-12 is this season, they probably will not lose there all season.

Arizona knows its deficiencies as does the college basketball world: On-the-ball defense especially in the frontcourt, the lack of a consistent, functioning offense with a player who can make the big shot a la Nick Johnson, and a substandard three-point shooting game (the Wildcats shot 6 of 28 from beyond the arc against Oregon and Oregon State).

With 15 regular-season games left, Arizona has plenty of time to correct those shortcomings. What will make it possible: The Wildcats’ chemistry, belief in Miller’s system and the ability to extend what happens in practice to the games. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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