Arizona Basketball

Road Warriors? Once again, more like Road Worriers for Arizona

Now what?

Figure one upset loss seemed a bit uncomfortable at Stanford. Then came an uncomfortable loss to Washington State. Then came Thursday night, Arizona lost for a third time as a big favorite, making it three straight road losses.

Road Warriors? Hardly.

Road Worriers? Maybe.

What gives? First time is a mistake … second and third times become a habit.

It’s clearly one Tommy Lloyd & Co., have to break.

Figure Arizona lost 83-80 on a buzzer-beater to Oregon State in an uneven, disjointed and uninspiring effort.

All the magic it built up in the season’s first six weeks is now gone. All that basketball-playing cred has vanished given how easy it is to make Arizona look like just another team. Oregon State did that by slowing the Wildcats down. And Arizona (14-5, 5-3) helped by going into an offensive lull.

And, well, on defense? That’s another story. Arizona can’t stop teams from hitting crucial 3s at crucial times. All three Pac-12 losses have come from team’s hitting 3s. Add the Purdue loss and that makes four.

“I take responsibility for everything, so, you know our defense hasn’t been very good,” said Lloyd on his postgame radio show. “I don’t know what they shot … but it’s way too good. We just got to keep battling.”

Oregon State, not a good shooting team, hit 12 of 20 for the night, including the dagger from Jordan Pope who hit a 3 at the buzzer. So much for Tommy Lloyd’s mantra of having the wiggle room (a good lead) to survive late surges. But as Lloyd told reporters in Corvallis, Ore., you let a team play close and “you’re playing with fire.”

And, well, UA got burned. It may have been college basketball’s biggest upset this season. Arizona, picked to win the Pac-12, went in as an 18-point favorite against the team picked to finish last. If the Princeton loss in the NCAA tournament was the lowest moment in Lloyd’s young coaching life at Arizona, Thursday night’s stunner may be No. 2. Not in scope but UA shouldn’t be losing as an 18-point favorite and surely not against OSU.

“I have a lot of belief in these guys,” Lloyd said. “We’ve had some highs and obviously feeling some lows right now. So, we’ve got to keep battling and come out of it. We’re built for tough times.”

Now, would be the time to prove it.

It’ll only get tougher on Saturday when it faces a better-than-OSU-team Oregon. Seemingly, that might help, although UA has lost six consecutive games vs. Oregon in Eugene. Historically, Arizona plays hard and with conviction against Oregon than it does against OSU on the road. Always has.

Still, many times overconfidence has killed the Cats. May have again on Thursday.

It didn’t look that way for about 30 minutes of the game as UA built a 12-point lead. Caleb Love hit shots, finishing with 23 points. Keshad Johnson had 18 points. And Pelle Larsson had 17.

But, once again, Oumar Ballo disappeared or at least was a non-factor. Missing again key free throws (last week may have been a one-off when he did hit his free throws) and a dunk or two.

“Make layups, make dunks – try to make your free throws,” Lloyd said.

And MIA – again – was Kylan Boswell, who went scoreless and played poorly to continue his month-long slump.

“He’s gotta play better,” Lloyd said. “I’ve given him opportunities. I really, really believe in Kylan. He’s going to be a great basketball player at Arizona. He’s been a great basketball player at Arizona. He’s gotta play better. It’s no reason to make it more complicated than that.”

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