SEATTLE - Two more games remain before Arizona starts Pac-12 play, and Wildcats are still tapping that snooze button.
After UA's early 22-4 deficit turned into a 71-60 loss to Gonzaga on Saturday, Arizona coach Sean Miller was forced to re-examine his early strategy again, despite the fact that Arizona started strongly in previous games with Florida and Clemson.
"Our slow starts have to be addressed," Miller said. "There's a reason. What's the reason? Who doesn't have enough confidence? And that's my job as a coach. To figure out what we can do to be better starting out.
"We've had some good starts but in a couple of our key losses we've really dug ourselves into a hole. When you play from behind, it's a hard game. Especially against a well-disciplined, talented team in Gonzaga."
Arizona has struggled immediately out of the gate in five games so far this season, losing three of them, not counting defeats of Ball State and NAU in which the Wildcats overcame trouble later in the first half.
Are there any trends here? Let's take a look.
Nov. 17 vs. St. John's at New York
• Starters: Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry, Kyryl Natyazhko.
• Early warning: Natyazhko missed the first shot of the game, and after he rebounded the miss, Mayes turned it over.
• Five-alarm fire: UA was only down 4-0 after two minutes, but the Wildcats had already missed two shots, committed two fouls and turned the ball over twice by then.
• First media timeout score: UA 9, St. John's 6.
• Halftime score: UA 44, St. John's 41.
• Final score: UA 81, St. John's 72.
• Rest of the story: The Wildcats hit 9 of 17 three-pointers in the first half and 14 of 29 overall to negate the troubling start and beat the Red Storm on one of its home courts.
• He said it: "Most of those open threes … came off poor defense. (Arizona) did a nice job of being patient and probing, and they shot the ball very well." - St. John's coach Steve Lavin.
Nov. 18 vs. Miss. State at New York
• Starters: Mayes, Fogg, Hill, Perry, Natyazhko
• Early warning: Bulldogs immediately established the inside, getting a layup from 290-pound Renardo Sidney 14 seconds into the game and an offensive rebound by 6-11 Arnett Moultrie after 53 seconds that led to a three-pointer by Dee Bost.
• Five-alarm fire: Wildcats went 0 for 3 without a rebound over the first two minutes, while MSU had four rebounds and went 3 for 4.
• First media timeout score: MSU 11, UA 7
• Halftime score: MSU 35, UA 34
• Final score: MSU 67, UA 57
• Rest of story: Moultrie finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds while UA was out-rebounded by four, shot just 40.4 percent and took eight fewer free throws than MSU.
• He said it: "I'm 6-7 and I played my heart out. No excuses at all. But when you're 6-11, you're 6-11. Nothing you can do about that." - Perry
Nov. 23 vs. SDSU at McKale Center
• Starters: Mayes, Fogg, Perry, Hill, Natyazhko
• Early warning: Wildcats did not score for nearly five minutes after Fogg hit a jumper in the opening minute.
• Five-alarm fire: While UA hit only 2 of its first nine shots, San Diego State was 7 for 9 and hit all four three-pointers it took over the first six minutes.
• First media timeout score: SDSU 19, UA 4
• Halftime score: SDSU 31, UA 29
• Final score: SDSU 61, UA 57
• Rest of story: Although the Wildcats pulled within two at halftime, they never came any closer the rest of the way while shooting only 33 percent from the field.
• He said it: "Our preparation before the game, we've gotta change it. I don't know if the bench has to be more into it … but we need to step up and start playing in the first half." - guard Nick Johnson
Nov. 29 at New Mexico State
• Starters: Mayes, Johnson, Fogg, Hill, Perry
• Early warning: After Mayes committed a turnover 26 seconds into the game, NMSU's Wendell McKines rebounded his own miss and was fouled by Hill, and then hit both free throws.
• Five-alarm fire: Aggies took a 10-2 lead when Mc-Kines had eight points, a rebound and a block - all within the first two minutes.
• First media timeout score: NMSU 12, UA 12.
• Halftime score: UA 44, NMSU 40
• Final score: UA 83, NMSU 76
• Rest of story: In his first start of the season, Johnson dunked and made a layup to help UA erase its early eight-point deficit in less than three minutes.
• He said it: "I can call a timeout (Miller did with less than two minutes played) but it was the players. You have a way of settling down when you see teammates making plays." - Miller.
Dec. 17 vs. Gonzaga at Seattle
• Starters: Mayes, Johnson, Fogg, Hill, Perry
• Early warning: The Zags out-rebounded UA 4-0 over the first 90 seconds.
• Five-alarm fire: Gonzaga took a 10-0 lead after four minutes when UA was 0 for 4 from the field, with turnovers from point guards Mayes and Josiah Turner both turning into Zag buckets.
• First media timeout score: Gonzaga 14, UA 2
• Halftime score: Gonzaga 39, UA 21
• Final score: Gonzaga 71, UA 60
• Rest of story: Wildcats cut the deficit to six points in the second half but never fully recovered while getting out-rebounded 40-26 and taking 23 fewer free throws than the Zags.
• He said it: "We have some deficiencies and we have to learn how to make those less deficient or flip the script here and create some more strengths." - Miller