Arizona Basketball

Not enough defense for Arizona means another loss

And the beat, well, goes on for the University of Arizona men’s basketball team.

It’s now six consecutive losses for UA after Thursday night’s 83-76 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City.

Arizona played competitively and nobly for much of the game but, once again, it wasn’t enough in the crucial second half when Utah went on an 18-2 run midway through the second half.

Arizona is now 14-11 and 5-7 in the Pac-12. Arizona hasn’t lost six consecutive games since Lute Olson’s first season in 1983-84 when the Wildcats opened the season 0-6.

Arizona hasn’t lost seven straight game since Ben Lindsey lost 15 consecutive games in 1982-83.

For Arizona, it may feel that miserable given it’s been that long since UA has lost so much on successive weekends. Still, Arizona coach Sean Miller was not all negative in Thursday’s loss given the circumstances.

“We played very hard,” Miller said in his postgame radio interview. “We played what I consider Arizona basketball from the perspective of being locked in together (and) playing with tremendous effort for 28 minutes, maybe 30. I would include the last four minutes of the game.”

Then there was that eight-minute or so stretch were Arizona had no answers. Miller become so frustrated that he put in deep bench players Jake DesJardins and walk-on Matt Weyand to mix it up. That actually seemed to work given it sparked Arizona to turn a 66-51 deficit to one of single digits.

He replaced them with his starters once again and center Chase Jeter, who had just eight points, fouled out, all but giving Arizona little hope for a win.

Miller said what’s plagued the team throughout the season – getting a big defensive stop – has continued to elude them. Miller said it’s not an easy thing to do when you need it to happen.

“Being able to get that big stop and being able to compete and compete for 40 minutes … everyone acts like that is a given, but it’s the hardest thing to establish,” Miller said. “That 40-minute segment, from start to finish, we’re having a hard time being able to do that.”

It seems like the defense is just one of the continuing problems. UA’s leading score Brandon Randolph scored just two points, hitting just one of five shots. It’s consistent with his production the last few games where Arizona can’t win. In the last eight games, Randolph has hit just 25 of 93 shots (27 percent).

Conversely, Miller had praise for Ira Lee and Alex Barcello, who combined for 23 points. Barcello went 5 for 8 from the floor and Lee went 5 for 7. Barcello had 12 points, Lee had 11.

“The one thing that Ira always does is he always competes, and he always plays hard,” Miller said. “In a game like tonight he stood out. Nobody on the other team took advantage of that with him. Is Ira perfect? No but you can’t question his effort.”

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