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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Lack of execution dooms UA

    Interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said his No. 17 Arizona men’s basketball team lost to Virginia in the first half, when the squad turned the ball over 13 times and allowed the Cavaliers to hit nine of 13 shots from behind the arc.

    That may be true, but the loss became official when Virginia and All-American guard Sean Singletary executed down the stretch and the Wildcats looked like a team playing three underclassmen and missing their Hall of Fame coach.

    While Singletary scored four decisive points in the final 1:22 of a game Arizona tied at 69 two minutes earlier, the Wildcats countered by forcing shots and committing turnovers.

    “”We just didn’t execute our offense, couldn’t get the ball in, and they executed their offense, and that’s why they made shots at the end, and we didn’t,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger.

    In the final three minutes, guard Jerryd Bayless forced and missed a tough 3-pointer, forward Jordan Hill had the ball stolen from him and Bayless missed a contested 2.

    After Bayless hit a 3 on Arizona’s only good look in crunch time to cut the lead to 73-72, he showed his youth trying to save the ball from going into the backcourt on an inbounds pass by firing an off-balance lob that landed in the arms of Cavs forward Adrian Joseph, who was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to extend Virginia’s lead to three.

    The freshman did not realize college rules, unlike those in high school, allow such passes to be caught in the backcourt.

    “”It was my fault,”” Bayless said. “”It was a mental mistake, and it shouldn’t happen again.””

    Said O’Neill: “”It’s inexcusable not to get the ball inbounds, and we’re all responsible for that.””

    The Wildcats still had a shot in a one-possession game with 20 seconds left on the clock, but after taking 11 seconds to get a shot off, McClellan missed a driving layup, Budinger could not hit a tough follow off the rebound and Bayless missed an off-balance 2-pointer in which he was trying to draw a foul for a 3-point play before the ensuing scuffle for the rebound went off Arizona.

    In all, the Wildcats attempted three shots – none of which came from behind the arc – while all but running out the clock during that sequence.

    O’Neill said the plan was to get a quick 2 and foul if Arizona could not get off a 3 right away, but “”we waited too long,”” he said.

    McClellan added that he was supposed to come off a screen and get the ball for a 3, with Budinger following him. The play was drawn up for either wing player to get a good look for a game-tying shot, but Virginia denied the ball well, leading to the broken play.

    “”Both of those were disappointing,”” O’Neill said of the final play and Bayless’ turnover in the backcourt.

    On the other side, Singletary carried Virginia to the finish after going scoreless for nearly 15 minutes in the first half and hitting just two of his first 10 shots on a night he was recovering from the flu.

    With 1:22 left, he used impressive body control to draw a shooting foul on guard Daniel Dillon – nailing both free throws – and hit a jumper to put the Cavs up four when Hill slipped trying to defend a pick and roll.

    “”He stepped up,”” McClellan said. “”I think he’s the best point guard in the country. If they don’t have Singletary, they don’t win tonight, simple as that.””

    Said Budinger: “”He became clutch at the end of the game.””

    No such player stepped up for Arizona, although Bayless tried to take over the game like he did so many times in high school, but he found the going much tougher against an Atlantic Coast Conference defense than a Phoenix-area high school defense.

    The Wildcats’ other offensive star, Budinger, did not take a shot in the final three minutes outside of the putback attempt on the final possession.

    “”I’m very frustrated with myself for not trying to get the ball at the end, creating for myself or for other teammates,”” Budinger said.

    As Budinger steps into a leading role for Arizona after deferring at times last season to more experienced teammates and Bayless adjusts to the college game, growing pains like this should be expected.

    When the Cavs had the ball down the stretch everybody in the stadium knew it was going to Singletary. When the Wildcats had the ball in those situations, they compounded mistakes with more mistakes.

    Not that the experience factor between the teams’ stars made much of a difference to O’Neill.

    “”I’m not going to talk about our youth anymore, because that’s just an excuse,”” he said.

    “”We lost the game because we didn’t execute.””

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