Sean Miller did his own self evaluation on Thursday night. He was honest and, well, accurate – Arizona has been mediocre in the conference in the last three years.
It’s played .500 ball and is here again in 2020-21 after Arizona fell to UCLA 74-60 in Pauley Pavilion against the host UCLA Bruins. UA is 8-8 in the conference and 14-8 overall.
Arizona has now lost five consecutive games to the Bruins. Last week in a loss to Oregon it was six straight loses to the Ducks. The power shift continues.
Arizona has had no punch or power in the conference the last couple of years and again this year.
He admitted that there’s a challenge of keeping his players locked in with just a few games left and that includes him and his coaching staff in getting the team ready.
“After DeAndre (Ayton) and Allonzo (Trier) and that group of guys left (and were) the Pac-12 champions, the following year we were starting over,” Miller said. “We were 8-10 and lost in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. A year ago, around this time, we were still playing for the Pac-12 championship and were clearly a tournament team and we were 10-8 … if you take a look at where we are right now we’re at 8-8 with three to go. It’s where we’ve been. We have to fix that. This is the path we’re on towards doing that.”
Thursday, the Wildcats got knocked off their path. It took one bad half.
Arizona showed little defense and little poise in keeping the ball on offense.
UCLA shot 73 percent in the second half to turn a close game into a rout after hitting 19 of 26 shots.
“We could not stop them, obviously,” Miller said. “We have a tough time matching up with them … their offense just overwhelmed our defense.”
Or Arizona’s defense was just underwhelming again.
What was clear was Arizona had no answers – again.
“They just played hard,” said UA’s Jalen Brown.
He mentioned that two or three times.
“They wore us down,” Miller said.
It tried to mix up some defenses and showing different looks a time or two and occasionally using a zone, but “you have to understand how small our team is using a zone. And some of the same problems you have in a man-to-man you have in a zone.”
But what was perplexing was UA’s turnovers. The second half was what did Arizona in on several fronts. Sure, Arizona has had horrible turnovers throughout the season, but Thursday night it was if they couldn’t hold on to the ball or keep control of it.
“I know I harp on that quite a bit, but we had some poor turnovers,” Miller said, referring to UA’s 16 turnovers, 11 of which came from the freshman. “It made the final score what it was.”