Expressing concern but not panic, UA coach Sean Miller took blame for the Wildcats’ anemic performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis last week and vowed to fix it.
Arizona is now unranked and 3-3 heading into a home game Wednesday against Long Beach State.
“I was disappointed that our team wasn’t more ready, didn’t have more confidence, wasn’t further along in that tournament and that’s on me,” Miller said today during his weekly news conference. “What’s really on me moving forward is to do better and fix the things I know we can fix and improve. We’ve already improved a little bit. Today another stop and we’ve got to carry it into a game.”
Miller said it wasn’t one specific issue plaguing the Wildcats, but made it clear that defense was the biggest issue in his mind. Mostly, he spoke of getting back on defense in transition and rebounding.
“SMU and N.C. State could have gone both ways,” Miller said of UA’s first two losses in the Battle 4 Atlantis. “It’s not just one player or one thing or just our freshmen. It’s the whole. Against SMU we had 20 turnovers. They killed us on the glass yet they were undersized. That did us in. Early against N.C. State, I think everybody was surprised that `Wow this game’s hard.’
“We had never experienced anything but a blowout and with a group that’s as young as we are, our confidence left us, it’s almost as if something was wrong. But we had a hard time defending them, missed free throws. Didn’t execute defensively. Against Purdue it was the entirety. The thing that was disappointing against Purdue was … they outscored us by 13 in the last eight (minutes). We caved at the end. It’s more about how we finished than being a 25-point difference. With that we have to become an overall better basketball team.”
Despite all those problems, Miller said there wasn’t a sense of panic.
“They’re not ready to quit,” Miller said of his players. “We lost a few games in a row. Nobody around here is walking around here happy about it. We’re a program that has a lot of pride because of performance, not because of the name on the front of our jersey but what that name on our jersey has done over many seasons.
“It’s not just about getting back on track as much as I’m anxious to see us improve, and anxious to see what we learned and are we moving in the right direction based on what we know as fact.
“The panic – that `I’m gonna drive my car into this wall because we lost three in a row’ – that’s not gonna happen. We have too much talent. We have too many good things in our future and it’s too early in the year playing a lot of young players. If we would have won one game would the picture be a whole lot different? No, it wouldn’t have. The only way that picture would be different for us right now is if we won two or three and quite frankly that wasn’t in the cards down there. We weren’t good enough to do that.”
Later, Miller said he would start Brandon Randolph on Wednesday but said he remained unsure when Rawle Alkins would return from his foot injury.
We’ll have more about Miller’s comments and Arizona’s future posted later Tuesday and in Wednesday’s print edition.