Arizona's Brandon Ashley, left, gets tangled up with Utah's Jason Washburn. UA coach Sean Miller said "no question" Ashley struggled defensively Saturday, but Miller praised the freshman's offensive efforts (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting).


Before he arrived at McKale Center on Saturday, Utah freshman forward Jordan Loveridge was a 27.3 percent three-point shooter. Utah center Jason Washburn had never attempted a long-range shot all season.

Two days earlier, Colorado's Askia Booker had been a 38.2 percent three-point shooter before he strolled into town. And his teammate, Sabatino Chen, had only made 2 of 23 threes in his two-year CU career, as UA coach Sean Miller noted repeatedly in frustration.

Yet all four of the opposing players had big roles in making the Arizona Wildcats breathe deeply while keeping their by-the-fingernails unbeaten season alive during a pair of wins over the weekend.

Loveridge hit 3 of 5 threes on Saturday in UA's 60-57 win. The 6-10, 242-pound Washburn stepped out to hit his only one. And, during UA's overtime win over Colorado on Thursday, Booker connected for 4 of 7 threes while Chen hit 2 of 4 threes (or 3 of 5, depending on your view of that now-famous buzzer replay call).

They did so against a UA defense that had allowed none of its three Diamond Head Classic opponents to shoot better than 26.3 percent from three-point range, appearing to have cured its early season struggles in defending the perimeter.

Arizona's only bright spot in perimeter defense was holding a possibly dispirited Colorado team to 0-for-6 shooting from long range in overtime Thursday.

"The three-point defense again has kind of eroded," Miller said. "You give up 17 threes on a weekend and it's hard to win. It really is. So we're going to keep working on that and we have to have a couple of players step up and do what they're supposed to. That's what this is about, accountability."

Although guard Nick Johnson held Utah's best shooter, Jarred DuBois, to 1-of-7 three-point shooting on Saturday - DuBois missed two three-pointers in the final 11 seconds - just about everyone else appeared to be on notice.

"We have a couple of players who are really struggling right now," Miller said. "You can't keep making the same mistakes, you're not going to play. You know they're just not. You work as hard as you can, you follow the blueprint and you get in the game and you do it. If you're tentative, you can be tentative on the bench.

"We have a couple of guys right now who have to step up and defend, play hard, be responsible and do the things we recruited them to do, the things we talk about. Because we've crossed the new year. We've played 14 games. I know we can do it better. But this weekend 17 threes go in."

Miller said he thought freshman forward Grant Jerrett struggled and that there was "no question" Brandon Ashley struggled defensively, although he praised Ashley's offensive efforts (11 points on 5-for-7 shooting). Backup forward Angelo Chol was no factor whatsoever, playing only five total minutes over the two games.

Miller was also upset about what happened on the other end of the court Saturday. UA made just 7 of 22 three-pointers and shot just 36.2 percent from the field overall, its second-lowest of the season after a 35.5 percent output on Dec. 8 at Clemson.

Center Kaleb Tarczewski was just 2 for 8, failing often to take advantage of his seven offensive rebounds. Jerrett was 0 for 4, while guards Mark Lyons (3 of 14), Johnson (2 of 9) and Jordin Mayes (0 for 3) all struggled, too.

"Guys have to get better, they really do," Miller said. "Grant was outstanding against Colorado. (Against Utah) I thought he had a tough night. Kaleb gives you things, size, that you can't take for granted. (He had) seven offensive rebounds and that's a lot. But when you look at our second-chance points, we had 18 second shots and (just) 10 points.

"If you get 18 second shots and 10 points, that's hard to do. You almost have to get an offensive rebound and fall out of bounds. We have to get rebounds and put it back in. We can't get an offensive rebound and get nothing out of it, and I thought that happened five or six times."

The efficiency came all too often, for Miller's taste, from the other team. Guys like Colorado's Xavier Johnson, a one-time UA recruiting target, hit 2 of 4 threes en route to 13 points.

And Loveridge, who was rated below all four of UA's freshmen as a high school recruit last year, went home with 17 points on 14 shots attempted without taking a single free throw.

"Freshmen eventually cross a line where they are no longer freshmen, they're just players," Miller said. "Jordan Loveridge is a heck of a player. It didn't matter if he was a freshman. We've got a couple of guys who have to play better right now and I'm not just pinpointing the freshmen but across the board."

Aching at the arc

Arizona's worst three-point percentage defensive efforts:


Nov. 19: Long Beach St. (14-32)


Dec. 15: Florida (10-18)


Dec. 18: Oral Roberts (6-12)


Jan. 3: Colorado (10-21)


Jan. 5: Utah (7-16)

Arizona's worst three-point shooting efforts:


Nov. 11: Charleston Southern (11-32)


Dec. 4: Southern Miss (6-20)


Dec. 8: Clemson (5-16)


Dec. 25: San Diego State (5-20)


Jan. 5: Utah (7-22)

Up next

• Who: Arizona at Oregon

• When: 7 p.m. Thursday


• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM