The way the Arizona Wildcats and coach Sean Miller spoke after their 84-73 loss to UCLA, their practice today could be one of the most focused they have all season.
Miller said there were problems from “A to Z” that the Wildcats now have to work on.
“I think there are some things all of us are trying to get better at," Miller said, "but when you have a loss sometimes, man, you can really get the attention of your team and everybody associated with what you’re doing to get better in these areas.”
It’s about “sharing the ball and passing the ball, being more patient, taking what the defense gives and defensively understanding how hard we have to play.”
Asked about the Wildcats’ communication, Miller said the Bruins’ attempts to run after both made and missed UA baskets exacerbated the problems.
“It’s just a fast pace. It’s not easy,” Miller said. “I don’t know if we communicated worse tonight than any other game. It’s just that as the season grows, you have to be ready and we have to keep improving and I thought we ran into a really good team here tonight. We did. No excuses.
“They were the better team tonight in McKale Center. Did we miss a few shots early that we normally make? Yes. But they did a lot of things that caused us problems and we have to learn from them.”
Of all the problems, Miller talked about a few items the most: UA’s offensive breakdowns, and the good play of UCLA’s Larry Drew II and Shabazz Muhammad.
Of UA’s offense, he said:
“When you get down 12-5 at home, sometimes you can really go out of character trying to make things happen and you do it more individually than as a team,” Miller said. “When you try to make plays individually… our turnovers we had 14, but almost every one led to a dunk or a layup. They were turnovers that didn’t really come from our offense -- they came from individual play: We didn’t pass the ball, didn’t share and that can happen when you’re always playing from behind. From a defensive perspective they’re a tough team to defend."
Drew had nine assists to two turnovers, which was actually below his 4.7-1 assist-turnover ratio entering the game. Miller and forward Solomon Hill said the UCLA’s high middle ball screens and Drew caused a lot of trouble.
“Their point guard played a great, great game,” Miller said. “His nine assists don’t reflect on how he dominated the game. I would say he had probably four or five other plays where his pass led to a foul, and that’s not an assist. We had no answer for him and he picked us apart. He’s a really, really good player. He’s the perfect point guard for their team because he makes everybody better. We really felt that watching the game tonight.”
Similarly, Miller raved about UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad, who considered UA as a high school recruit out of Las Vegas.
“I know Shabazz and he plays like an older player,” Miller said. “He had a very quiet 23 (points) and that’s what makes him such a great player. He’s good. He’s really good. Everyone wants to see what a guy who’s a really good player look like? Him. He was the big difference, as were a few of their other players, but that guy’s a great one. He really is.”
Not surprisingly, UCLA coach Ben Howland also complimented Muhammad.
“When the lights and cameras are on, he really comes to life,” Howland said. “He is one hell of a competitor.”
UA point guard Mark Lyons, meanwhile, had no assists and five turnovers while shooting 6 of 17 from the field. Miller said Lyons’ production was one of a “long line” of things that didn’t go well Thursday.
“He didn’t have a good game, no question,” Miller said. “We needed him to play really well tonight and he didn’t. And I also tell you there’s a number of guys who (didn’t)…”
One of those guys: Center Kaleb Tarczewski, who went scoreless and had only one rebound in 15 minutes, struggling to match up with UCLA’s Wear twins and withstand UCLA's slashers.
“Like we needed Mark to play well, we needed Kaleb to play well,” Miller said. “But the.. position he was put in – (UCLA had) a lot of drives, lot of hard drives.”
While Miller said the Wildcats hurt themselves in the Pac-12 race, falling two games behind Oregon and a game back of UCLA, he tried to put it in perspective.
“We rallied,” he said. “It wasn’t like we didn’t try. Our crowd was great, but we lost. It’s just like Duke going to Miami and losing, Louisville losing two in row, UCLA losing a game at home before they show up here.
“It’s tough to just string them out one after another for 35 games. But for us it’s important this loss, that we learn from it and we also put it behind us. And at 5 o’clock on Saturday (when UA hosts USC), that we take advantage of playing a home game. That’s the challenge for us. Learn from it, yet move away from it and be better the next game.”
Here's the official box score.
Some national perspective from writers who dropped by McKale Center on Thursday:
Yahoo's Pat Forde watched as Shabazz Muhammad put the Bruins, and then a Gucci backpack, on his back.
The L.A. Times noted that the UCLA freshmen had a pretty good time at McKale.
Drew told the Orange County Register that he doesn't think the Bruins have peaked yet.
ASU beat USC in overtime despite the Trojans' downpour of three-pointers.
Allen Crabbe led Cal over Utah.
Andre Roberson had 20 rebounds in Colorado's easy win over Stanford.