Arizona Basketball

Arizona was thisclose from rallying to beat Colorado

Arizona responded. It took a while but the Wildcats responded.

This time, however, Arizona couldn’t get the win because of it.

Once, twice, three times Arizona coach Sean Miller prodded and poked his team after tough losses this season. It worked for the first two. The third was thisclose.

Yes, thisclsoe before Colorado found a way to win 82-79 in Boulder.

It took about 10 minutes for Arizona to wake up from its Rocky Mountain slumber on Saturday night but eventually did after falling 19-2 to the Buffaloes. It stormed back and had a chance. Had a …

UA’s Jordan Brown looks to pass in UA’s 82-79 loss to Colorado. (Photo courtesy UA Athletics)

 “Our entire team played a great game,” Miller said, saying Colorado had lots to do with the large deficit it put UA in. “Tonight, win or lose I couldn’t be happier or prouder of a group of guys.”

Miller said yes, his team could have won down the stretch but a “couple of poor decisions” may have prevented that. Inexperience may have took its toll, as well.

“When you make those errors Colorado still has to make those plays … they made the free throws and made the 3s and they are a good team,” Miller said. “We lost to an excellent team on the road here in February.”

He added “that was probably the best overall basketball we’ve played this year” but that 19-2 start “was something to overcome.”

It’s not like Arizona didn’t try – admirably. It was, in fact, one or two possessions away from an eye-opening win, what would have been an inspiring win.

“I’m proud of our guys,” he said.

Proud of James Akinjo for bouncing back from perhaps his worst game of the season to score 16 points.

Proud of Azuolas Tubelis for a gritty 18 points from all over the court.

Proud of Bennedict Mathurin for responding from his “attitude” problem on Thursday to have a great game. He finished with 22 points.

Proud of his young team that responded after its worse loss on Thursday at the hands of Utah.

He loved the team’s effort. Then quickly admitted his team “has some holes, we’re not a perfect team and our defense in the last four minutes had we been able to get a defensive stop, get a turnover or played the possession without fouling we leave here with a great victory.”

And not that he’s into morale victories, Miller was pleased with what he saw, despite Arizona falling to 13-6 overall and 7-6 in the Pac-12 Conference.

“In no way are we or I disappointed,” Miller said. “There are a lot of valuable lessons we can pull from it. There’s a lot of confidence you can gain from it.”

Isn’t college – and basketball – all about learning? Thursday’s debacle proved to be a major lesson, given Tubelis said the team wasn’t prepared for the game. Miller said, if true, that fell on him. One expected Friday’s practice to be, well, a tough one.

Miller said it was a good practice with a couple of “tough film sessions. “it included a team meeting that helped “drill down on roles.”

“February represents a different challenge,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of teams playing for a lot. Colorado is an example so is Utah. I don’t think we were quite ready for that on Thursday. We were ready on Saturday.”

And it showed. It just took a bit longer than he wanted it to.

“I liked our effort,” he said. “I wish we could have left with a win. I’d much rather get on a plane with a team today than the one we were on Thursday. Thursday almost needed to happen for us to be better tonight.”

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