Arizona Athletics

Yes, Miller likes the points, but he REALLY likes defense

You have to hand it to Sean Miller when he has a message, he sends it. Again and again.

It’s to the point and with examples. If he had a chance to use diagrams and pie charts he’d do that, too. He didn’t have that luxury on Wednesday.

And, well, yes he’s been happy with Arizona’s head-swiveling pace and everything that goes with it, but it’s his defense that he’s concerned with.


“Our defense hasn’t been very good,” he said on Wednesday in preparation for Thursday’s game with Cal State Bakersfield. “It’s really not one thing … effort, concentration, our guards in keeping their man in front … doing what they need to do.”

He’s a defensive-mind guy who prides himself on it. After Sunday’s game I was curious if he was having the hee bee jee bees about what he was seeing on the defensive end. Apparently, he is. You can sense that he’s uncomfortable with what he’s seeing on the perimeter and near the basket … on the defensive end.

There have been too many easy baskets. And all positions have been guilty.

They’ve been late in getting into position or in defensive positions or just simply not prepared. All that has been unusual for a Miller-coached team. Game one saw too many Lumberjacks getting to the basket with the dribble and against UMBC they hit 14 3-pointers.

“It’s so hard to win a game when you’re giving up 14 made 3s,” Miller said. “They got good looks and many came off dribble penetration.”

He went as far as saying the defense is in its infancy and it won’t go from “kindergarten to high school” quality right away but “if we are in first or second grade I’d hope we can be in fourth or fifth grade the next game and that they’d keep progressing.”

Playing time, eventually, will come through the willingness to play defense. It’s long been his motto and will continue moving forward – no matter the points.

“Basketball is a two-way sport and you have to play defense and offense and I don’t want to be caught up into the world of trying to outscore people because we all know how that works,” he said. “You win some and you lose some. We have to be good on both ends. Our commitment to doing that (winning) needs to improve.”

Miller said the pace of the game – Arizona has stepped it up – shouldn’t hinder the defense, especially having the depth his team has.

“We have to take a big leap if we want to continue to be a good team in college basketball,” said UA’s Parker Jackson-Cartwright. “I think we will get better on defense. It’s still early.”

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