Where oh where does Arizona go from here?
The road, again – this time to Washington State and Washington – and, well, that’s not a good thing after Arizona laid an egg in the second half against Arizona State here at Desert Financial Arena. Arizona fell 66-65.
“You can paint a bad picture, we’re going to the pacific northwest,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We haven’t won on the road and we have two more. I don’t have anything positive to say to that.”
Nothing positive can come from Saturday’s freefall either, other than nobody got hurt.
But how appropriate Arizona fell at Desert Financial. You want to put any stock in Arizona, now 13-6 overall and 3-3 in the Pac-12? Good luck. It suffered yet another loss in a true road game “and when you are on the road your margin for error certainly disappears,” Miller said. “When we give up 18 turnovers and you get beat on the glass like we did in the final 24 minutes you end up losing.”
And in one of the ugliest ways imaginable. Arizona had a 22-point lead in the first half after going on a 21-1 run to seemingly put the game away in the first half. ASU looked like it needed GPS to find the basket.
Arizona could have closed out the half with a nice finish but senior Max Hazzard, last week’s sharpshooting super star, turned into a liability late, missing on a shot apparently designed to be one of the last one’s of the half. He missed and ASU turned it into a last-second make to get momentum into the half, trailing just 43-30 after down by 22.
Sean Miller talked about toughness after last year’s game in Tempe against ASU. He brought it up again after his team lost the Sun Devils after leading by 22 points tonight. pic.twitter.com/K2NgWmiRKw
Hazzard was never seen on the court again, particularly after Miller walked with him into the tunnel to let him know what he did wrong.
“I lost confidence by the end of the first half,” Miller said, when I asked him about Hazzard. “There are a number of things as a coach that you have to get your guys to be able to do. When it’s your ball, no matter where the game is played, you want to take the last shot. You don’t want to jump in there with 13 seconds. It’s like what team are you playing for?
“That’s discipline. That’s how you win basketball games. You have to take care of the ball. For us, we have to go with the guys who are going to play that way.”
Still, Arizona was up by 13 at half … But when is it really over in this rivalry game in the last 10 years? You. Never. Know.
Here’s the final play … looked like all body to me but hard to only blame the refs when you give up a 22-point lead. pic.twitter.com/V7Ge1T3Q6Y
“You have to make plays; you have to make lay ups,” Miller said. “You have to make open shots. You have to make free throws. You can’t turn the ball over down the stretch and you got to get a shot at the basket.”
All were not possible for Arizona in the final 22 or so minutes. Arizona State, a whimper in the first half, turned into a Haboob in the second. And the Wildcats had no answers. ASU found its GPS and UA lost its, scoring just 22 points – that’s not a typo – in the second half.
All that talent had no answer. Mannion. Green. Nnaji, et.al, were overcome by Remy Martin, Rob Edwards and Alonzo Verge, Jr.
“We’re not a confident group. We really aren’t,” Miller said. “It’s about performance. You have to grade our performance and me as a coach. You have to grade us on how we do and not on how we are supposed to be.
“Who we are supposed to be and who we are … this is about who we are.”
Who Arizona is is anyone’s guess. Will the real Arizona Wildcats please stand up?
Is it the team that played Gonzaga, Oregon and Baylor to the wire or the team that lost to Oregon State two weeks ago and ASU on Saturday night?
Who knows? All I do know is that it’s never as good as it seems (UA beat up on Utah and Colorado last week and most everyone said they were back) and now this when everyone is wondering what is going on. Miller talked about toughness and wherewithal like UA didn’t have any.
“When you show up on the road you either play with confidence or you don’t,” Miller said. “… I wish I could help our guys break through it, I’m the coach and it really starts with me. I’m going to try even harder than I am to give those guys as much confidence as I can to see if we can break through one day.”