EUGENE, Ore. — Arizona received a full week to prepare for Saturday’s regular-season finale with ASU, and the Wildcats might need every minute of it.
Actually practicing could be the least of their tasks, too.
After suffering their worst loss of the season, 73-47 at Oregon on Saturday, the Wildcats’ to-do list might include:
Getting Brandon Williams all the way back.
During his first three games back from a flare-up to his right knee, Williams played only limited minutes and wasn’t quite the same guy who might have put up his best game of the season Jan. 26 at UCLA before going down.
Williams had four points in 18 minutes against Stanford, fouled out in 20 minutes at Oregon State while scoring 10 points, and then picked up three fouls in just six minutes of the first half Saturday against Oregon.
“He’s fouling right now, but that’s what happens when you don’t practice and play for as long period of time as he didn’t, plus he’s a freshman,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “But he’ll adjust. The good thing is he’s getting some good game experience, and hopefully when we get to next Saturday, he can play a longer stretch and eliminate one or two of those fouls.”
Miller said Williams was “doing fine” overall, with Williams scoring 12 points on 3-for-6 shooting against the Ducks, and drawing three fouls that led to a 5-for-6 effort from the line.
“I’m working my way back slowly,” Williams said. “I’m getting there. I’m just working with J Rock (trainer Justin Kokoskie) and coach Rounds (strength/conditioning coach Chris Round), getting back healthy.”
It could be a long and careful haul. Williams had surgery to repair a congenital issue in his knee as a junior in high school, missing the following 10 months, and Miller said it has flared up on a few occasions since he reported to the Wildcats last summer.
Williams, said he didn’t want to discuss whether it might be an ongoing issue.
Rehabbing Chase Jeter.
The first time the Wildcats center ran downcourt against Oregon on Saturday, it was clear he was still hurting from a bruised knee he suffered two days earlier against Oregon State.
ESPN2 analyst Bill Walton even said it was “ill-advised” that Jeter entered the game in that condition, and Jeter left for good after six minutes in the first half. He had one rebound but did not draw a foul or take a shot.
Miller says Jeter did not suffer anything other than a bruise but he was soon convinced Jeter was better off on the bench Saturday.
“I didn’t think he could go,” Miller said.
Deleting Saturday’s game from Brandon Randolph’s memory bank.
Arizona’s leading scorer made just 1 of 9 shots Saturday after appearing to break out of his slump for good two days earlier.
Shooting just 23.9 percent over a five-game span that ended with UA’s win over Cal on Feb. 21, Randolph shot 4 of 10 against Stanford on Feb. 24 and then went 7 for 8 against Oregon State on Thursday.
That earned Miller’s confidence.
“Brandon has stuck with it,” Miller said Friday, between the OSU and Oregon games. “He’s had some great moments this year as a sophomore – he’s led us in scoring, he’s led us in minutes, he’s started every game. And oftentimes you get into conference play, especially if you’re on a team that sustains a few setbacks, it can take away your confidence.
“Everyone was focused on Devonaire (Doutrive, after his game-winning rebound basket at OSU) but Brandon Randolph had a big role in why we beat Oregon State and hopefully he can keep it going.”
Letting Ira Lee rest.
Because Arizona’s sophomore forward doesn’t like to turn off his high-intensity motor, sustainability can be an issue. That’s what happened Saturday, with Lee forced into 33 minutes of playing time because of Jeter’s absence and foul trouble to Ryan Luther.
Lee averaged 19.1 minutes per game in conference play entering Saturday, counting the 23 he logged Thursday at OSU. In his extended play Saturday, Lee produced two points, going 1 for 2 from the field and missing all four free throws he took, though he did collect seven rebounds, one steal and one block.
“I thought Ira wore down,” Miller said. “He did the best he could. He played hard. But he’s not used to playing that many minutes.”
Ignoring the noise in the Pac-12.
After Stanford lost on Sunday, the Cardinal pulled into a tie for ninth place with Arizona. That meant Arizona would earn the No. 9 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament based on its series sweep of the Cardinal, putting the Wildcats into a first-round game in the afternoon on March 13 in Las Vegas.
Should they win that game, top-seeded Washington would await in the quarterfinals.
But that’s only if the event started this week, which it doesn’t. In fact, there’s still a wide range of ways the seedings could play out, and an equally wide range of what could actually happen in Vegas.
So there’s little point in focusing on it. For UA, it may be more about playing well entering the tournament, which Oregon started doing with its dominant homecourt sweep of ASU and UA over the weekend.
“They’re probably one of five or six teams that I think could win three games in three days or four games in four days,” Miller said of Oregon. “You know, there just isn’t a lot of separation.”