Arizona basketball: Cats' foe will be … a hard one to figure

Pac-12 Tournament bracket


Arizona coach Sean Miller may have already memorized the "turnovers" column on the Wildcats' stat sheet, but that doesn't make the miscues any easier to watch on videotape.

Especially not when his top three veterans - Jesse Perry, Solomon Hill and Kyle Fogg - are also the team's top three turnover violators.

"Sometimes you press the pause button when you're watching it on film and you ask yourself: 'What in the world is he thinking?'" Miller said. "We have to get away from some of those (turnovers) to be a good team. Players who are in the game have to make responsible decisions. You can't leave your feet, change your mind in the air, just see the defense and not just the offense. There's a time to drive and a time not to."

Miller said the turnovers are a combination of players not taking care of the ball and offensive breakdowns or miscommunication. Trying to play a faster tempo against teams that prefer a slower pace also may have been a factor, the way UA freshman guard Nick Johnson explained it.

"I'd say it's carelessness to a certain point," Johnson said. "But any time Coach wants to play faster, there's going to be different stuff that happens and, as a result turnovers, so I think it's just getting used to what we want to do moving forward."

While mostly playing the off-guard position, Johnson leads the starters in assist-turnover ratio at 1.48-1, while UA point guards Josiah Turner and Jordin Mayes are both hovering around the 1-1 mark.

Miller said he wants the point guards to push that ratio in "more of an assist-heavy direction," but said Turner will improve if he keeps up his better overall effort in the past few weeks.

The coach also said he likes what he sees so far when playing Mayes occasionally at shooting guard, alongside Turner.

"Jordin looked comfortable getting in a window of time at the two" position against USC, Miller said. "That makes us deeper. And Josiah will settle in with more game experience."

For Miller, the bigger concern with turnovers is with the Cats' bigger players.

"You have Jesse at 29, Solomon at 38, and Kyle at 31," Miller said, reciting their exact turnover numbers. "Those are our most experienced players. No team can afford to have its frontcourt and its most experienced players turning the ball over like that.

"It just drives you crazy as a coach."

Arizona shot 2 of 15 from three-point range in Sunday's 57-46 win at USC, but Miller said the only thing that drives him crazier than poor shooting is no shooting.

"You can't score unless you get a shot, and a lot of times your turnovers kill your defense," Miller said. "When I look at our defense, I'm more optimistic about our defense because it's not like our offense has aided our defense recently. We've played some excellent defense, and we have to continue to do that."

Indeed, while Arizona shot a collective 5 for 32 from three-point range against UCLA and USC last weekend, it held the Bruins and Trojans to 2 of 24 combined from beyond the arc.

Overall this season, Arizona is holding opponents to 26 percent from three-point range, the fifth-stingiest three-point defensive figure in Division I.

"We are really defending the three well," Miller said. "As bad as we are, the other teams were worse. That says a lot about our team and the signs of things to come with us continuing to develop into a very good defensive team."

But in Thursday's home game against Oregon State, the Wildcats' problem may not be defending the three-point shot as much as taking care of the ball.

Arizona has had an average of 16.0 turnovers in three Pac-12 games so far, and the Beavers force an average of 18.6 per game with a mix of aggressive man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone defense.

"This hasn't been a season-long problem," Miller said. "A few weeks ago one of the things I would have talked to you about is we'd been doing a good job of taking care of the ball. But in the three Pac-12 games, even though we had two good victories, we weren't nearly as good as we could have been if we got three or four more shots at the basket.

"That's a point of emphasis this week because (the Oregon schools are) really trying to turn you over, whereas the first three teams really weren't."

On StarNet: Follow the Cats on Bruce Pascoe's blog at:

Up next

• What: Oregon State at Arizona

• When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

• TV; radio: Channel 58; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)


How the Cats rate by turnovers per minute:

Player TOs Ast.-TO ratio TOs/Min.

Josiah Turner, G 27 1.07 .088

Solomon Hill, F 38 1.26 .077

Kyle Fogg, G 31 1.09 .065

Nick Johnson, G 27 1.48 .062

Jesse Perry, F 29 0.72 .060

Brendon Lavender, G 9 0.78 .057

Jordin Mayes, G 16 1.00 .052

Kevin Parrom, G/F 11 1.82 .051

Angelo Chol, F 10 0.30 .051

Kyryl Natyazhko, C 5 0.80 .038