There was no offense, no defense and, well of course, no victory for the Arizona Wildcats.
Defeat doesn’t come any easier to explain.
In Utah’s 73-58 win over Arizona Thursday night, nothing seemed to go right for Arizona – including what would have been a perceived boost from newcomer Kerr Kriisa. But, he was a non-factor.
And like Sean Miller has said numerous times in the past and a couple times on Thursday, his team has little room for error.
“Our defense was bad as a defense and bad all this season,” UA’s Azuolas Tubelis said of Miller’s post-game message.
Then he added: “Like I said, they kicked our asses.”
Yikes! When was the last time you heard an Arizona player say that publicly?
But, yes it was that bad as Arizona fell to 13-5 overall and ?? in the Pac-12 Conference. In fact, Miller said Utah kicked his team’s butt several times because, well, it was that apparent.
What’s worse is that Arizona’s defense continues to be a problem. Another issue is Miller can’t just wave a magic wand and expect it to be better.
“We worked really hard, obviously we didn’t work hard enough if our guys didn’t think we were prepared,” Miller said, referring to a comment from Tubelis about the team not being ready to play (more later). “I’ll make sure we work a little harder so that each of our players feel like they are prepared for the game that they are playing.”
Again, yikes (but more later).
Miller said he’s invested a ton of time “and it doesn’t always mean it’s going to show up on game night” and it didn’t.
Utah – at least on Thursday – was everything Arizona is hoping to be. It just was. It was organized on offense and defense. It was methodical. It was impressive.
Arizona was none of that.
“They kicked our butt and I can’t say that enough,” Miller said. “They beat us; they beat us.”
Kerr had zero points in going 0 for 2. He had two assists and no rebounds. Arizona’s leader James Akinjo had 10 points but played through arguably his worst game as a Wildcat. He went 2 for 9 from the floor.
And then there’s the curious situation involving rising star Bennedict Mathurin, who played so poorly Miller brought him off the bench in the second half after seeing Mathurin’s gait not into the game. He had four points, going 1 for 6.
“He has to play with total effort towards winning the game, both on defense and offense,” Miller said. “And his body language has to be great … when he does that, he’s a very good player but I didn’t like the way he played.
“I thought it was a reflection of the whole team … I didn’t like his attitude.”
It all led up to Arizona poorest performance of the season.
“We took a giant step backwards,” Miller said, referring to the team’s defense after saying his team had been making progress.
It’s struggle on defense didn’t help with the team’s offense.
“All of a sudden the ball doesn’t go in and it doesn’t feel right … but you can let your defense affect your offense,” Miller said. “You have turnovers and all of a sudden you’re picking and choosing your effort level on the defensive end and it’s a matter of time before they break it open.”
Utah eventually did late in the first half with a strong 9-1 run to close it out and then continued its strong performance early in the second half. By then, Arizona couldn’t must any type of rally.
Miller called that moment a “disaster.”
“From that point,” Miller said, “we were just playing up hill.”
What may have been the most telling part was Tubelis saying the team wasn’t prepared enough.
“Mentally we have to prepare ourselves, like one fist,” he said. “We can’t. I don’t know why.”
When told of Tubelis’ thoughts Miller was a bit taken aback and said preparing the team is on him and that will be improved.
“I have to do a better job,” Miller said. “I’ll make sure I get with the guys and we get on the same page … Maybe we work longer hours, go at it harder and communicate better. That’s unacceptable. We have to do a better job so that our players feel prepared. If they don’t feel 100 percent prepared that’s on me.”