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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Down-to-the-wire games can make or break Arizona’s season

Arizona men’s basketball has found an inability to close out games, especially on the road this season. While the “Cardiac ‘Cats” have always been known to take close games down to the wire, this season has been especially difficult on Wildcats fans’ hearts. 

Most recently, the Wildcats were swept by a now second place Utah team, for the first time since 1998, and a fifth place Colorado team. 

“We’ve been so much better in the second half and there’s a reason for that: we are not a great team,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said post-Utah. 

Miller continued to emphasize the team’s struggle to make that play at the end of games to close out top teams. 

“We have the ability to be right there, especially on an away court where you have to make a play, a block shot, a loose ball,” Miller said. “Today it was a defensive rebound on a missed 3-pointer, we just haven’t been able to make that play. When you can’t make that play, you get close, but you can’t usually finish and that’s really what we’ve done.” 

In six of Arizona’s seven losses this season, the final minute was when the game mattered most. 

Against Utah, the play happened with 44 seconds to go. Utah’s Brandon Taylor dribbled toward the left and stepped back to hit a 3-pointer wide open. Gabe York, his defender, ended up on the floor, which created that space. The Utes would go on to win 70-64. 

Against Colorado, Arizona saw much of the same. York tried to do too much down three and be the hero with about 15 seconds left. Instead, he dribbled the ball out of bounds. Arizona almost escaped on a desperate 3-pointer from Allonzo Trier in the final seconds, but it rimmed out. 

Against California, York, guarded by three defenders, had the ball in the final seconds and couldn’t get his right handed layup to fall. 

In the quadruple-overtime heartbreaking affair against USC, York had the ball tipped away past half court by Trojan defenders and heaved the ball to Kadeem Allen, who missed a 3-point attempt as time expired. 

UCLA, on the other hand, would be the dagger that Miller would erupt over: a defensive mishap. On a switch screen, Kaleb Tarczewski was guarding Bruin sharpshooter Bryce Alford, who nailed a wide open 3-pointer. Allen, who was supposed to be guarding Alford, switched with Tarczewski, which Miller erupted over in his press conference. 

Last but not least, was the Wildcats first loss of the season, which came to Providence 69-65. Down by two with just 15 seconds left, point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright passed the ball into the hands of a Friar defender. 

All these losses most certainly take a toll on a team that is still trying to find its momentum and groove going into the tournament. Luckily for Arizona, these losses will mean pretty much nothing come tourney time. 

Even luckier for Arizona, it has mastermind Miller on its side. The Wildcats will learn so much from all their highs and lows this season. 

People will sleep on the Wildcats come March, which is when they will hit their groove. Bold statement: Arizona will make a deep tourney run in the NCAA Tournament this season. 

Follow Matt Wall on Twitter


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