In Saturday’s postgame interview with CBS’s Greg Anthony, Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller tellingly said, “You can’t win a game like this unless you play a game like this.”
At that moment, Arizona State was tipping off a home game against Grambling State.
This isn’t a shot at the Sun Devils; it’s just that in Year 8 of coach Herb Sendek’s tenure, ASU has won a single NCAA tournament game.
You can’t hide out in college basketball and expect to break through at the highest level. As Rich Rodriguez often says, “You’ve got to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Speaking of time zone changes, travel, a hostile crowd, a pumped-up opponent and an injury to center Kaleb Tarczewski, Miller said, “We had every reason to say ‘not today,’ ” on his postgame radio show Saturday. Instead, Arizona is now likely to be 15-0 entering its Jan. 9 Pac-12 showdown against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. Arizona seems sure to hold its No. 1 ranking through four more ranking periods.
Arizona entered Saturday’s game shooting .660 from the foul line, the lowest at Arizona since 1997. But on a day that its margin for error was almost invisible, the Wildcats went 14 for 15 from the foul line.
Here’s a rising-to-the-occasion statistic: Arizona has shot .810 from the foul line in its three most imposing games this season — Duke, Michigan and San Diego State — and .633 against all others.
Arizona hasn’t won anything yet. Nobody’s going to hand out a trophy of any kind for another three months. But by winning Saturday at Michigan, the Wildcats put in motion a belief that beating the Wolverines won’t be their happiest moment of the season.