It isn’t often one goes to the Arizona media guide to look for stats that have negative connotations to them. But that’s been the case the last couple of weeks for the Arizona Wildcats.
It’s been that bad the last three weeks. Arizona’s surprising-but-not-surprising 69-55 loss to Washington State Saturday night in McKale Center, no less, has given Wildcat faithful questions.
Like when was the last time UA lost five consecutive game in a season? Well, that would be the 1983-84 during Lute Olson’s first year. Or forever.
And when was the last time Arizona lost five consecutive conference games? Well, go one year further when Ben Lindsey spent one year at Arizona and Cedric Dempsey had seen enough. That year UA finished 1-17 in the conference and the bottom had fallen out.
Arizona isn’t there, but doesn’t it feel that way given all the success the Wildcats have seen and experienced since those down-and-out days?
How does it feel for the players emotionally?
“Any time you lose it takes a toll,” said UA senior Ryan Luther. “We work hard every day and try to get better in practice. Unfortunately, we haven’t put it all together this last stretch of games, but of course it takes a toll. We just want to win.”
When and where that happens is anyone’s guess given the state of the program and the circumstances: a program back in the national spotlight (in a bad way) after assistant coach Mark Phelps has all but been terminated from UA for alleged impropriety involving a former recruit. And, of course, because of the current free fall.
Sean Miller has never gone through any of this before at Xavier or here.
“I’ve been fortunate we’ve had good teams,” Miller said when asked how the last five games have been for him. “(He’s been at) two great places. This is certainly new, but that happens, and these are the circumstances. It brings on brand new challenges. Part of it is that we have to get our guys as confident as we can get them.”
That’s been the buzz word for the last three weeks given what’s gone on. It started with the disastrous trip to southern California where all this mess started. Then carried over to Arizona State and now the last two games where UA has looked mediocre at best.
He said he had “a number of players in that boat” where confidence is a problem – and it’s on offense and defense. Arizona shot 31 percent from the floor, again the offense failing in addition to the defense where WSU hit 11 of 24 3-pointers.
WSU beat UA every category. When was the last time that happened? It’s WSU, a team Arizona has dominated since joining the Pac-10. Arizona was 31-7 and had won eight of its last nine against the Cougars. Oh, how times have changed.
It’s Arizona that looks more like the WSU teams of the past. Where will Arizona find the confidence to win again, especially if confidence comes from winning?
“You usually do it through practice,” Miller said. “You do it with small stretches, sometimes with that one player
where (it’s) one time and the ball goes in and the burden is lifted.”
He rattled off a long list of things that need lifting: UA was 6 for 22 from the 3-point line, it was 11 for 20 from the free throw line and 21 points at the half.
“That set the tone,” Miller said.
And right now, the tone is deafening on the verge of historical.