Miller: ‘Things aren’t good right now’ as Arizona tries to turn season around

Sean+Miller+looks+displeased+as+his+Wildcats+struggled+mightily+throughout+the+game+against+Pac+12+rival+UCLA+on+January+26th.

Beau Leone

Sean Miller looks displeased as his Wildcats struggled mightily throughout the game against Pac 12 rival UCLA on January 26th.

Alec White

Coming off back-to-back 20-point losses in Los Angeles, the sky isn’t falling yet for Arizona men’s basketball, but the sun certainly isn’t shining bright, either.

“Mood’s not happy-go-lucky. We got blown out twice in LA, nobody knows that more than us. Things aren’t good right now,” head coach Sean Miller said.

Miller noted that he liked the way his team looked in Monday’s practice, adding that shooting the ball has continued to be his main emphasis. Arizona missed 96 of its 138 shots against USC and UCLA, failing to reach 70 points in both contests.

          RELATED: The five key factors that led to Arizona’s dismal showing against UCLA

“[Shooting] has been something that has really plagued our team all season long. I think we became aware of that in the month of October,” Miller said. “We’ve really tried to shoot more per day, especially within the confines of our practice.”

Prince Ali (23) elects to go under the screen that Ira Lee (11) sets to get Brandon Williams (2) an open look from three point territory. 
Prince Ali (23) elects to go under the screen that Ira Lee (11) sets to get Brandon Williams (2) an open look from three point territory. 

Part of Arizona’s struggles can be attributed to the absence of Chase Jeter, who remains sidelined from a back injury sustained against Oregon State two weeks ago. The 6-foot-11 center didn’t practice with the team to start the week, and his status remains up in the air for the game against ASU.

“It’s really his call. You know discomfort, pain, how much he can tolerate,” Miller said. “I do think he’s making progress.”

At 14-7, 5-3 in Pac-12 play, the ‘Cats are going to need Jeter on the court down the stretch of the season if they hope to rally and make a push for the NCAA Tournament.

It may not matter much, however. When asked if Arizona is a March Madness-caliber team, Miller’s response was short and cutthroat.

“No,” he said.

Head coach Sean Miller yells towards his Arizona team right before an inbound pass as play was stopped on Saturday, January 26.
Head coach Sean Miller yells towards his Arizona team right before an inbound pass as play was stopped on Saturday, January 26.

15 minutes later, Ira Lee had a similar response.

“I mean, after the past two games, would you think so?” the sophomore said. 

Miller did go on to add that it’s possible UA could run the table à la Aaron Rodgers in the Pac-12 Tournament, where the winner gets an automatic bid.

“Hopefully that will be the place,” Miller said. “Playing our best basketball, being as prepared as we can – as confident as we can – and making those three or four days a magical run.” Miller said. 

Sitting at fourth in the Pac-12 conference and having a down year isn’t something the Arizona men’s basketball program is accustomed to. The Wildcats have won the conference outright three of the last five years and own a share of the 2016-17 title with Oregon.

“It’s not OK to lose. It isn’t. That’s all part of it. I don’t think everybody expects to go 40-0 every season, but when you lose, you want to learn from it, bounce back and be better because it happened. Losing’s not fun for anybody, and I’m no exception,” Miller said.

While not getting into details on the specific adversity he has faced as a coach over the last year with losing almost the entire recruiting class, Miller admitted that things could be a lot worse for the program than what they are right now, saying “thank God” Brandon Williams re-committed to the Wildcats in May. 

          RELATED: Williams is Arizona’s lone bright spot after brutal LA roadtrip

“He’s a really shining light on our team. His performance right now is probably the one performance that he continues to grow and get better,” Miller said. “I know at USC he didn’t make a lot of shots, but I thought he played really well, and then against UCLA, he put it all together.”

The ‘Cats will likely rely on Williams’ growth to carry over into their third road game in a row, this time at ASU on Thursday. ASU (14-6, 5-3) also sits at fourth in the Pac-12. Game time is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN2.


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