When does a win not feel like a win? When the head coach says his team was “sloppy, fat and happy” and it blows a 20-point lead. And, when the problems you had in game one are still there in game 22.
“We have to continue to work,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
These are times to be critical because it’s turning into critical times with a little more than a month left before the madness of March begins.
“We didn’t play well,” Miller said when asked to assess the final 10 minutes of the game in Arizona’s 85-80 win over visiting USC. “We didn’t play smart.”
He might as well have been talking about the entire game and, in fact, may have been. Figure that Arizona didn’t score a basket in the final 8:20, relying on free throws to hold off a surging – yet not capable – Trojan team.
He continued: “We struggled throughout the game.”
He said he didn’t feel his team was locked in, save for a couple of players or two. But since last week’s sweep of the Washington schools, his teamed lacked a focus.
It showed Thursday night, although Arizona moved to 16-6 overall and 6-3 in conference play to keep up with the Pac-12 leaders.
He said the team had a hard time practicing this week and it didn’t have a great shootaround on Thursday.
Thankfully, he said, Josh Green played one of his better games this season, finishing with 18 points. Teammate Nico Mannion had a team-high 20, 12 of which came from the foul line.
“I was happy to see the way he played tonight,” Miller said of Green. For everyone else, not so much. “He really saved us.”
It was a struggle all night – just depends on the stats you look at.
— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) February 7, 2020
“It’s like that jockey coming down the stretch,” Miller said, in going to analogy about motivating his team. “You have to pick and choose but you can only hit it so hard. Sometimes the best way to learn is by failing. We’ve done that a number of times. We have a group that has a lot to learn. We’re very fortunate to win.”
Miller went as far as saying that had his team lost it would have allowed them to learn more. That’s a scary thought given UA is running out of time in the learning department.
Tonight also marked win No. 400 for Sean Miller as a head coach so he got the game ball pic.twitter.com/jc8DbKM52J
— Matt Moreno (@MattGOAZCATS) February 7, 2020
“I thought we did a lot of good things tonight but there were too many moments we reverted to a quick shot for no reason,” Miller said. “(And) time, score, situation, playing hard-nosed, playing defensively (well) (were also problems).”
He added UA struggled “mightily on defense.”
Miller was so distraught that he quoted NBA analyst Jeff VanGundy, saying you” can’t evaluate your scheme unless you have great effort.”
Miller said great effort wasn’t there, so he couldn’t evaluate everything in its entirety. Alarms haven’t completely been sounded, but March is just around the corner.