A week or so ago, Arizona coach Sean Miller said the one thing about his team that was evident was — drum roll, please — the offense wasn’t all that good.
Well, welcome to Exhibit A, Your Honor, where proof was in the numbers on Thursday night against an Oregon team that made the Wildcats pay in what turned to be a 59-54 loss in McKale Center.
The defense rests … well, maybe not entirely but Arizona’s defense was good just not great as the Arizona players said. And if your offense isn’t good enough to win games, your defense must be. Arizona’s wasn’t.
Arizona (13-5, 4-1), now, has lost two home games in a season since the 2009-10 season. Three in a season has not happened since that same season, too, but that could be the case when Oregon State comes into town on Saturday evening.
Why? The Beavers play a zone. Yikes.
It’s what did in Arizona, although Miller said it wasn’t so much the zone but a group of players that may have been selfish in their approach to, um, its offense.
Time and circumstance of the shots.
“For whatever reason, the first eight minutes, the first four minutes, especially the first half, we took some tough threes,” Miller said. “We had gotten away from that and that had served us well.”
Until Thursday. It was then Miller went full out honest in his evaluation – saying words like “selfish” and “horrible” when describing shots.
“When you take long threes early in the (shot) clock that are contested and you have nine turnovers you are playing with a team that is difficult to win on that particular night,” Miller said.
And it was that night. The zone, again, gave Arizona fits. The 2-3 zone, the matchup zone. Hell, it put Arizona in the deep freeze (it shot 36 percent from the floor) that may have felt like the Twilight Zone. So strange UA couldn’t hit free throws (more later).
You get the point. Arizona couldn’t score. It was so bad at one point Arizona was 1 or 12 to begin the second half. It was part of a 2 for 23 stretch that had Arizona in catch up mode all night.
Arizona – 54
Oregon – 59
Arizona suffers their first conference loss of the season. Chase Jeter led the 'cats in scoring with 12. Arizona will be back Saturday to take on Oregon State who is tied for first place in the Pac-12.
How is this? Ryan Luther was 1 for 7 and 0 for 5 from beyond the 3-point line. Brandon Randolph was 2 for 9, 1 for 4 from three. Arizona shot 6 for 22 from the 3-point line.
It helped Oregon that the Ducks were the “harder, better playing team” Miller said, and it as helped by the return of Kenny Wooten, the masked man who looked more like Halloween’s Mike Meyers to the Wildcats more than anything else.
Arizona players said they had game planned for Wooten to play – but there’s one thing in preparing and another in facing him. Wooten, who missed the last four games with a broken jaw, played almost 25 minutes, scored five points, had seven rebounds and a block.
With Wooten, suddenly Oregon looks like the team to beat in the conference – and Arizona looks very beatable. See what one game – a defeat – does to a team, especially when it loses at home.
If Miller had a theme, he wanted to point out in the post-game press conference it was repeated a couple of times at least: shot selection, ball movement and turnovers were the problems.
“Our offense was a problem here tonight,” he said. “There’s been many games that we’ve won and had to overcome when the ball wasn’t going in, but you have to do it with great defense.”
Then Miller went to his usual this team has little “room for error” talk, saying this team’s room is “microscopic.”
There were other things as well. Arizona uncharacteristically missed three free throws late, including two front ends of one-and-ones.
“We have four points that are still out there,” he said.
And now, Arizona finds itself in a tough position, avoid losing for the third time at home in a season at home for the first time since his first season here.
“There are 350 teams (in the country) that don’t have our record (at home),” Miller said, of UA’s homecourt record through the years, “so when you lose it feels funny. But it’s up to us to bounce back and see if we can be a better team.”