After nearly fixing their three-point defense problem earlier this season, the Arizona Wildcats have become worst team at defending the three-point shot in Pac-12 play.
They are allowing Pac-12 teams to shoot 37.7 percent from three-point range against them, though UA is sixth overall in field goal defense (42.6 percent).
“There’s a lot of good we’ve done but our three-point percentage defense is a real problem for our team,” Miller said on today’s Pac-12 teleconference call. “We’ve won in spite of it. Instead of playing with fire moving forward, I believe it will really keep us as an inconsistent team and on any given night we can lose, just because it’s such a difference maker."
Miller went a bit further during his weekly news conference this afternoon, saying the three-point defense was "pathetic," especially over UA's last four games.
"For a while we were on the track for improving... we've reverted back and it's cost us dearly," Miller said at McKale Center. "For us to finish strong, both in our five regular season games and in March, to where we can advance in both tournaments, you can’t be playing with fire like that because there's too many good teams and players who can change the game on you."
Miller said he has been particularly concerned with the three-point defense in the second halves against Cal (5 of 7), Utah (5 of 8) and Colorado (6 of 9).
“That’s something that in spite of the really good things we do, it really takes away from our performance,” Miller said
In general, Miller said UA has not defended well in the second half lately.
“You can make an argument that we’re the best (early in games) and then for whatever reason, teams have had their way with us,” Miller said. “Those are the things we’re addressing.”
“Our team is going to be at our best if you can look at us and say, 'these guys are hard to score on.’ You take that away from us and we’re very vulnerable.”
Miller said he was still "leaning" toward keeping Kevin Parrom in the starting lineup, as he did Sunday at Utah, in part because it is likely Parrom's last season (barring a surprise NCAA approval of UA's planned appeal for a fifth-year, considering the time that Parrom has cumulatively missed in his career).
"The players who have been in the program for four years have the most invested and the most experience," Miller said. "With Kevin, Solomon (Hill) and Mark (Lyons), with all the games they played to me it makes sense to put them out at the beginning of each half."
As a bonus, Miller also received more production from Brandon Ashley off the bench Sunday: Ashley had 10 points, four rebounds, three steals while still playing 22 minutes.
Things are getting a big more physical in the second half of Pac-12 play. Colorado’s Josh Scott is “day to day,” according to coach Tad Boyle, after suffering a concussion when he was hit by ASU’s Jordan Bachynski.
Oregon’s Tony Woods, meanwhile, will not face further disciplinary action after he knocked down WSU’s Brock Motum with an elbow but he has been put on notice.
“We’re really disappointed in Tony’s action,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He retaliated and he shouldn’t have. There won’t be any further punishment other than he knows from our end he can’t do it again and from the conference’s end. It was a very disappointing action on his part.”
But while Boyle said the "dog days" of conference play and tight race are bringing out even more physical approach, Cal coach Mike Montgomery said he would not use that as an excuse to justify his shoving of Allen Crabbe on Sunday.
"I've been doing this 31 years. I know better," Montgomery said. "I think things have changed in terms of how you can deal with kids and there’s a heightened senses ... but there's nothing that makes it right. I was wrong. You have to attack that and move forward."
WSU coach Ken Bone said there's still a chance guard Mike Ladd could play Saturday at Arizona. Ladd has been sidelined with a knee issue.