It’s simple math when it comes to the Arizona men’s basketball team these days – particularly when you look at why it is 10-2 and why it’s won and lost.
The numbers don’t lie.
In Arizona’s 10 wins – yes, I’ll temper it by saying the competition wasn’t all that great – Arizona shot 53.3 percent from the floor. In the Wildcats’ losses, they’ve shot 33.8 percent.
Arizona’s overall shooting percentage is 49.9 percent heading into its game with St. John’s on Saturday in San Francisco.
“I think that just happens throughout the season, sometimes we just have to continue to take great shots, continue to work on shooting like we do in practice, as well,” said Jemarl Baker on Friday in preparation of the trip. “And (UA needs to) continue to stay confident.”
So, is it more Arizona not shooting well or the defenses (from Baylor and Gonzaga) the reason for the shooting woes?
“I don’t think it really has much to do with the defense that we’re playing against,” said Baker, who has come off the bench and added some perimeter firepower on offense. “I think it’s just, I mean it happens to everybody, even NBA teams go through slumps and I mean it happens to everybody, so we just have to stay confident and, and just continue to shoot the ball.”
And they will. Arizona coach Sean Miller said his team just needs to take smarter, better shots, not rush the offense just to rush it. And, not take those it’s “my-turn-type-of-shots.”
“You’ve got to be very smart,” Miller said. “And just because we’re playing fast, which we want to do, doesn’t mean that we need to be rushed into taking a shot that’s not good for our team.”
Sean Miller says he’s learned Arizona’s weakness is rebounding. Calls this year’s team one of his worst rebounding teams. He believes the group can become better, however.
When asked about the team’s shooting, Miller talked about his star freshman Nico Mannion, who suffered through one of the program’s worst individual shooting days in a big game, going 3 for 20 in the loss to Gonzaga. And, this from one of Arizona’s best perimeter shooters in a few years.
But it happens.
“Nico had a day that he doesn’t have very often,” Miller said. “The loss wasn’t because of him.”
Miller said they reviewed the Gonzaga game and saw that Mannion shouldn’t have taken a couple of the shots or should have been a little bit more patient with the shots. But he took some shots that he “normally makes.”
Miller wanted to make sure everyone realizes “it’s a team game and you win as a team and lose as a team.”
And, well, the team shot poorly in the two losses. In fact, the microcosm of the season has mirrored the play of senior Dylan Smith, who has done better than in previous seasons but still lacks a consistency. One game he’s running hot, and another not so much.
In UA’s two losses, he’s gone 5 for 19, including 2 for 12 from beyond the 3-point line. Other days you wonder where has this guy been?
“Dylan’s played some good basketball,” Miller said. “We need him to be steady, we need him to be consistent. We need him to be a better defensive player. I think he’s one of the smartest defenders on our team. And we need him to be that every game and you know I think he’s one of many candidates on our team who can rebound better, especially on defense. As long as he takes good shots, he’ll shoot a good percentage.”
Senior Stone Gettings won’t play on Saturday. Three weeks ago, he suffered a concussion and facial fracture against Penn. He returned to practice this week and is wearing a mask to protect the fracture. “His face, his cheekbone, his eye, is not 100 percent but it looks a lot better,” Miller said. “The swelling’s down … When we get back from Christmas, he’ll be a month (from the injury), and he’s moving in the right direction.”