Arizona forward Ryan Luther (10) not only gets his shot blocked by Oregon's Paul White (13) but also picks up a changing foul by clattering into Francis Okoro (33) in the second half at McKale Center, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019.
Sean Miller has expressed approval with the way Arizona has handled zone defenses most of this season, moving the ball around more and more carefully shooting 3-pointers, but not Thursday.
Not at all.
The Wildcats shot just 36.5 percent over the course of the game and made just 2 of 11 3-pointers in the first half Thursday in their 59-54 loss to Oregon. They did hit 4 of 11 from 3 in the second half, but Miller was particularly disappointed in the way he said they lost patience in the first half, throwing up shots he didn’t want them to take.
“We’ve really done a good job against a lot of recent zones we’ve faced,” Miller said after Thursday’s game. “We’ve moved it. We’ve gotten away from taking threes, we’ve converted some of those tough threes into drive and free-throw attempts but tonight, again, you have to give credit, their defense is a little bit different and we were out of sorts and we never could really get into a rhythm and a couple of guys had tough nights shooting.”
Brandon Randolph shot 2 of 9 from the field while scoring just five points, the first time all season he has scored in single digits, while Ryan Luther was 1 for 7 and missed all five 3s he too. Randolph, Williams and Justin Coleman were all 1 for 4 from 3-point range.
“Our shot selection, ball movement and turnovers were much better in the second half,” Miller said. “But … clearly our offense was a problem here tonight. … You’re dealing with microscopic room for error when you play offense like we did.”
Miller said, as he often does, that the Wildcats have overcome that problem with great defense in past games when their offense has struggled but even UA’s arguably very good defense on Thursday (allowing 38.6 percent shooting and just 59 Oregon points in 63 possessions) wasn’t enough this time.
No doubt, the Wildcats will see more zone defense on Saturday against Oregon State, which is holding Pac-12 opponents at just 43.8 percent shooting from inside the arc and has been the fourth-most efficient team in league play.
“There’s a variety of zone. To basketball people, no zone is alike,” Miller said. “Oregon State’s going to play us zone and Oregon plays zone. They are entirely two different ways of playing zone but it’s zone.”
Oregon coach Dana Altman said Kenny Wooten's return from a broken jaw made a big difference. Wearing a face mask, Wooten had five points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes.
Arizona is now 91-5 at home since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, still the best record in Division I during that time.
Kentucky is next at 93-6, followed by Kansas (88-6) and Villanova (79-6).
“We haven’t lost too many games in this building,” Miller said. “We have America’s no 1 record. There’s 350 teams that don’t have our record. So when you lose, it feels funny. It’s up to us now to bounce back and see if we can be a better team and beat a very good Oregon State team on Saturday.”