UA HOOPS

Arizona basketball: Lucky (not sorry) to be 14-0

Cats 'aren't satisfied,' but Miller not alarmed by so many close calls
2013-01-09T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:23:54Z Arizona basketball: Lucky (not sorry) to be 14-0Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Their three-point defense is leaky. Their freshmen big guys sometimes struggle to contain opponents. Their outside shooting is inconsistent.

And the Arizona Wildcats keep getting in one jam after another, winning three games by three points or less and another in overtime after a controversial buzzer call went against their opponent.

The No. 4 Cats know all that stuff, and they hear plenty about it. But they also know they are … 14-0.

Aren't they?

"There's a lot of teams in the country who wish they were 14-0 and in our boat," guard Mark Lyons said. "My last couple of years (at Xavier) I never started 14-0. I don't know a lot of people in college basketball who started 14-0. So I'm just happy we started 14-0, and I'm cherishing every moment."

At the same time, Lyons said the Wildcats "aren't satisfied" heading into what he acknowledged was a difficult weekend ahead at Oregon and Oregon State. He said the Cats need to keep improving, which has been UA coach Sean Miller's biggest point of emphasis all season.

But even Miller paused for reflection on some outside concerns.

During both the Pac-12 media teleconference call Tuesday and in his weekly news conference at McKale Center, Miller expressed weariness over questions about all those close calls.

"Playing in close games last year, I felt like in some form the question would be posed: 'Why can't we win close games?'" Miller said. "I really believe it's almost the same when you win them: 'Why are you in so many close games?'

"If the objective is to win by the biggest margin we possibly can, then we're failing in that area. But I know that we're 14-0, and at 14-0 you have to be in a number of close games, and we've been on the positive end of them. I hope we can continue to do that."

Living large

Even though Miller was concerned about the defense from UA's freshmen big men after the Wildcats' 60-57 win over Utah on Saturday, he indicated Tuesday he has no plans for a more permanent smaller lineup.

Miller has occasionally played 6-foot-7-inch senior Solomon Hill at power forward, where he spent most of last season, but indicated he will not significantly expand Hill's presence there this season.

With a smaller lineup, "I know our defensive field goal percentage will start to go up," Miller said. "But we have some advantages that we don't talk a lot about, and that is rebounding margin and how much more difficult it can be to score on us around the basket.

"With Brandon (Ashley) and Grant (Jerrett), they bring some things to the table size-wise offensively and defensively that we haven't had in my three years here. It's more about developing them than it is changing."

Miller also continued to express concern about his perimeter defense last weekend after the Cats allowed 17 three-pointers between games with Utah and Colorado.

Three-point defense is "not a strength," Miller said. "It's something we've done sometimes well and sometimes not well, but when you look at the games where they've pushed us to the limit, it's where they've had big nights from three."

Odd men out

Sophomore forward Angelo Chol averaged just three minutes in UA's past three games, but Miller said that was partly a function of going sometimes with smaller lineups.

"We believe in Angelo," Miller said. "He hasn't played much, but Angelo brings some great things to the table, and his best basketball is ahead of them."

In the backcourt, freshman Gabe York has not played at all in the past three games.

"I'd like to play everybody, especially guys that you believe in," Miller said, referring to York. "His future is very bright. I think he's improved quite a bit since the beginning of the year. It's just you can only play so many guys.

"Gabe is kind of in that position now where he's waiting and, like I tell him, he has to be ready to go. But there will come a day when I think he'll really play a lot for us and play really well."

Top seed?

ESPN "bracketologist" Joe Lunardi moved the Wildcats to a No. 1 seed in his first NCAA tournament projection since Dec. 11.

Lunardi, who last had UA as a No. 3 seed, put the Wildcat as the West's top seed and into Salt Lake City for the first weekend of the tournament.

If UA is assigned to the West region, it would have a chance to play Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Los Angeles.

On StarNet: Join Patrick Finley at noon Wednesday for a live Q&A chat on Pac-12 basketball at live.azstarnet.com

Up next

• Who: No. 4 Arizona at Oregon

• When: 7 p.m. Thursday

• TV: ESPN2

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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