Arizona coach Sean Miller said the Wildcats “have a lot of new faces,” especially facing a Dana Altman-coached team, but one of the oldest has played Oregon before.
Justin Coleman’s previous experience against the Ducks was as a sophomore at Alabama when he scored 24 points with six assists in a 72-68 loss on Dec. 21, 2015.
Seems like a lifetime ago.
Same goes for Chase Jeter, who faced Oregon in the Sweet 16 with Duke three years ago and finished with two points and three rebounds in nine minutes in an 82-68 loss.
Coleman and Jeter faced Oregon’s switching zone defenses again on Thursday night at McKale Center. Coleman had more turnovers (four) than points (three) in a painful-to-watch 59-54 win for the Ducks at McKale Center.
Jeter had a double-double — 12 points and 10 rebounds — with two blocked shots.
“We have a lot of new faces. I look out there some times … we have Chase Jeter, Brandon Williams, Brandon Randolph and Justin Coleman,” Miller said. “The only guy who had an opportunity to play last year against Oregon was Brandon Randolph and he probably did not play very much.”
Randolph took only two shots in 18 minutes of two games against Oregon last year as a freshman. He made only two shots Thursday night, finishing 2-of-9 from the field with a season-low five points.
“We have to do a better job of creating shots for him. He has to do a better job of helping himself,” Miller said. “Oregon was really able to take him out of things. It made for a tough night.”
Others on this year’s team have also played the Ducks, but not quality minutes, except Dylan Smith.
He had 25 productive minutes at Eugene, Ore., last year when he made 4-of-5 from the field to finish with 11 points. On Thursday night, he had eight points in 17 minutes, a relatively low amount considering the defection of Emmanuel Akot from the team this week.
Ira Lee played only six minutes against the Ducks last year at McKale and drew four fouls. He played 17 minutes on Thursday night and had nine points on 3-of-4 shooting, including 3-of-3 at the free-throw line.
“We definitely were getting good shots, they just weren’t falling,” Lee said. “It was one of those games that if we wanted to win, it was going to be on the defensive end. We played good defense but coach said we could have played great defense.
“It definitely made a huge difference in the game and we’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
Alex Barcello played four minutes at Oregon last season. He played almost 11 minutes in Thursday’s loss and drilled a 3-pointer that seemed to wake up Arizona from its shooting doldrums late in the game.
The players who have never played against an Oregon team coached by Altman — Luther, Williams and Devonaire Doutrive — combined for 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting with six turnovers and only three assists.
“When you play Oregon, you’re well aware of their identity, the things that they do well,” Miller said. “That’s never changed. They force turnovers. They mix fullcourt pressure with their matchup zone. They play the game at a very high level in terms of effort.”
Arizona’s graduate transfers — Coleman and Luther — combined for eight turnovers. The Wildcats’ two captains, Coleman and Jeter — both new to the team on the court this year — missed the front end of one-and-one situations late in the game.
Gone is the continuity of teams in college basketball, including Arizona. The newness of the Wildcats’ team was obviously a detriment. The frenzied atmosphere of McKale Center, with the students back from winter break, was not even a factor.
“Our effort just wasn’t good enough to win tonight,” Jeter said.