Arizona coach Sean Miller said he’s seen this movie before. Not once, not twice, maybe three times. Heck, maybe more.
Call it a horror story with a few plot twists and failure-to-escape-the-boogieman moments.
Yes, Stanford was that – and more – down the stretch against Arizona in McKale Center after it beat host UA 73-64 for a rarity – a season sweep.
Not since 2008 has that happened to the hands of Stanford. Consider this: Stanford took 10 years to beat Sean Miller and now its has beaten in twice in a season.
Arizona, now 12-4 overall and 6-4 in the Pac-12, can blame a number of factors for its first loss in four games – and just at a point when people were thinking this team was on the right track of finishing in the upper half of the conference. Instead, the loss left Miller frustrated on so many levels.
Defense, like in losses to UCLA and USC, was a problem.
Turnovers were a problem.
Not having a full compliment of players, despite Ben Mathurin playing, was a problem.
Stanford finished with a 21-7 run – one that included a 15-2 spurt- to finish the game to take control of the game. When was the last time an opponent came into McKale and that happened? Forever?
Frustrating was the word of the night.
Miller pointed out Arizona had a five-point lead in the final eight minutes and then, well, collapsed. Arizona was unArizona-like. And against a team that was without three key players.
In a nearly four-minute answer to begin his postgame press conference, Miller applauded the play of Stanford and then explained how his team just wasn’t ready and it “wore down.”
And he explained his team broke down on too many plays and in too many areas.
“When we’ve lost games before our defense just abandons us,” Miller said. “It’s what happened from the eight-minute mark on. We had no ability to get a stop.”
Then Miller said something I don’t remember him ever saying: “We looked like a team that was hoping we could win (but) we weren’t ready (or) locked in (or) prepared. (Or) if we were going to lose, they were going to beat us. We certainly cooperated down the stretch.”
In fact, Miller said he “sensed” something like this couldn’t happen, given he has a team that needs a rest rather than games given UA has played three games in a week and four games in 10 days. It was without energy.
Miller called it being “beaten up.”
Arizona needed everyone to play well and didn’t get it. Mathurin was admirable in his return from a sprained ankle, but he had his moments – good and bad – that didn’t help. Azuolas Tubelis had perhaps his worst game of the season. Jordan Brown was a non-factor.
“There’s a lot of different players that didn’t get the job done,” Miller said.
Arizona’s guards James Akinjo and Terrell Brown had uncharacteristic turnovers. They combined for nine.
There were so many reasons for Stanford’s sweep, something that hasn’t been written in more than 12 years.
“We looked like a team that wasn’t as ready as we needed to be,” Miller said.
Then there was this: “We weren’t a functioning group in any phase of the game: turnovers, defense, scouting (and) execution.”
And, well, defeat doesn’t come any easier to explain.
“I credit Stanford, but I never had a good feeling in the game,” Miller said.