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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona still struggling with conference schedule

Colin Darland
Colin Darland

To many, the Arizona men’s basketball team’s 59-57 loss to Oregon on Saturday could be looked at as a learning experience.

The Wildcats are still in the thick of the Pac-12 Conference race despite a 3-2 conference record. The team put together one of its better halves of the year, outscoring the Ducks by 10 in the second and erasing a 17-point deficit.

And, if it wasn’t already clear after last weekend’s split in Los Angeles against USC and UCLA, Arizona learned that every Pac-12 game will be a 40-minute dogfight.

But Wildcat head coach Sean Miller doesn’t want to hear about learning experiences.

“Those days of lessons learned — that was Seattle Pacific,” Miller said. “The freshmen right now aren’t freshmen. We’re in the middle of January. We’ve played 18 games. The older guys have been through the wars several times.”

Arizona came out flat in the first half, scoring just 22 points and entering halftime with a 12-point deficit — it felt even larger — after having just 41 hours to prepare for the Ducks after an overtime win on Thursday against Oregon State.

“We weren’t ready to go,” Miller said of dealing with the short turnaround from a Thursday night game to Saturday afternoon’s game. But this type of schedule is something the Wildcats will see often in Pac-12 play.

Arizona has fewer than 48 hours in between games in each of its six remaining Pac-12 weekends before playing ASU to close out the season on March 4.

The Wildcats travel to Pac-12 newcomers Utah and Colorado this weekend before returning home to host the Washington schools, including a “white out” game against Washington, where ESPN’s College GameDay crew will be in attendance. Then Arizona hits the road to the Bay Area schools — a trip that’s likely the toughest in the conference this season.

“I think anytime you play three games in a week it puts pressure on your team, but every team in our conference is going to have to deal with that,” Miller said. “We played an afternoon game here (Saturday) in front of a great crowd on national television — and we didn’t have it.”

Miller said that Arizona’s halftime deficit was “a lot about our effort,” and that a lack of leadership is something else the Wildcats need to overcome. Junior forward Solomon Hill did his part to erase questions about the Wildcats’ leadership, scoring 14 points during a seven-minute tear to open the second half.

But despite the Wildcats’ lackluster performance against Oregon, Miller doesn’t see any reason to expect similar performances as the season grows older.

“It’s not a season-long problem of effort,” Miller said. “It isn’t like we’ve not tried or haven’t played hard for 17 games, but I can clearly tell if our team doesn’t play hard and for 20 minutes, we didn’t. This is about getting the job done, and we didn’t get the job done.”

Still, as one of Arizona’s most experienced players, Hill knows that one weekend or one game doesn’t define a team in this conference. The Wildcats sit just one game back in the loss column from the conference lead and have games remaining with three of the four teams ahead of them in the standings.

“It sucks, I’m not gonna lie,” Hill said. “But we’ve gotta look at the bigger picture. We can possibly win the next two games and put ourselves in a better situation … we just got to look ahead now.”

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