Arizona had every chance to win against host Alabama on Sunday afternoon.
But, um, it couldn’t overcome a horrible start.
It couldn’t stop Alabama’s inside game.
It didn’t get to the free throw line often enough.
And, its bench wasn’t up to it again.
It all added up to a 76-73 loss in what turns out to be its first loss against a non-conference opponent in a true road game (on an opponent’s court) since 2015 (UNLV).
What proved to be the biggest difference – and it might be most of the rest of the season – is Arizona’s need to get rebounds. It failed to in the final moments on Saturday. Alabama’s final three baskets came on offensive rebounds. Miller said second shots “broke us down.”
“Like our Gonzaga game (a loss) you have to have a group of guys being able to block out and we’re not gifted in that area,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in his postgame radio show. “We need some guys overachieving to get the ball. Second shots hurt us.
“We broke down too many times today. We struggled to get back on defense and we’re not going to win games on the road if you can’t run as fast as you can.”
Emmanuel Akot gets to the basket for UA. (Arizona Athletics photo)
Translation? Arizona (7-3) got beat back one too many times for Miller’s liking. And, it just didn’t do what it needed to do on that end.
“Our defense, I wouldn’t even give it a D,” Miller said. “The things that we can control as a coaching staff, the things we can control as a team, the details we got an F.”
Ball screen defense, he said, was “horrendous.”
But it happens – and it’ll happen more often in the coming months. Arizona is what it is – a team that isn’t as talented as it’s been in the past.
And all the aforementioned will occur. The bench won’t score much (this is now the second or third time that has happened). It was outscored 27-6 on the bench. Arizona isn’t a tall or bullish when it comes to rebounds or defending near the post.
Lost in all the mess of the late-game chance(s) was Arizona falling back in the first half – this time by 19 – much like it did last week against Utah Valley. Arizona was able to overcome the deficit “by playing good basketball,” Miller said.
“But you can’t play in patches,” Miller said. ‘You have to be consistent.”
With that, what does it all mean? Last week it was good enough to win against UConn (a team we don’t how good it is) and this week it wasn’t good enough to beat Alabama (a team we don’t know how good it is). Translation? We still don’t know how good Arizona is or isn’t. And we won’t know until March.