The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

61° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Silver lining in Hoops defeat

LAS VEGAS — Standing in the hallway outside of Arizona’s locker room in the Orleans Arena, I already knew what to expect from head coach Sean Miller — the response similar to that of an underdog fighter who pushed his favored opponent to the brink, but wore down in the late rounds.

I expected Miller to exit the locker room and say he was proud of how his team competed against No. 6 Kansas.

I was wrong.

Miller appeared, not from the locker room, but at the end of the hallway. And when he addressed the media, he wasn’t interested in any discussion about a moral victory or giving praise for sticking around.

“”I don’t know that any of us have made the decision to come to Arizona as a player or coach to say we played Kansas tough,”” Miller said. “”But I’m proud of our effort and I do think we’re much better than we were a year ago.””

Doesn’t that sound familiar? That sounds like the old Arizona basketball program before the four coaches in four years, when an eight point loss to Kansas was nothing more than a disappointment.

Miller’s response to loss confirmed two things.

First, that the Arizona basketball program is officially back.

Secondly, that the Wildcats got it right on their first try when replacing legendary head coach Lute Olson.

Everyone knew that this season would give a better idea of whether former athletic director Jim Livengood made the right hire before he left for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  

Over the weekend in Vegas, Miller proved in many ways that he is just as good of a choice as everyone thought John Calipari and Rick Pitino were.

On a day when Miller‘s team proved Arizona is back to competing against the best, he also picked up two top-25 recruits in Grant Jerrett of the 2012 class and Eric Cooper Jr. of the 2013 class.

It was more than his team competing with the No. 6 team in the nation.

It was more than his team beating up Santa Clara by 23 points the previous day.

The way Miller handled junior guard Kyle Fogg when he played poorly in the first half against Santa Clara — choosing to pout instead of get back on defense — showed that it once again means something to play for the Arizona basketball program.

“”Kyle (Fogg) had a bad first half and didn’t handle his bad play well,”” Miller said. “”I’m not dealing with that. This is a team sport. This is basketball. This isn’t tennis.

There is no time to pout or pity party if you don’t make shots.

“”If guys on this team don’t buy into the total team effort and play for the win at all times, you’re not going to see them at Arizona and damn sure not going to see them in the game.””

Fogg sat out the second half against Santa Clara and was replaced in the starting line-up against Kansas by Brendon Lavender.

Miller’s decision to bench Fogg made him look like a genius when the junior responded with 18 points going 4-for-8 from beyond the arc against the Jayhawks, giving the Wildcats a much needed spark off the bench when they trailed by 15 points.

Miller’s decision sent a message to everyone on the Arizona roster that, if your best interest isn’t with the team, you will meet the bench, a message that Fogg clearly

received.

“”Coach made a good decision. My head wasn’t in the right place,”” Fogg said of the benching. “”I was really getting down on myself with my poor play and I wasn’t giving it my all because I let that get to me.””

And though Arizona failed to win at least one of two nationally televised games, with football losing to Oregon on Friday and basketball to Kansas, there is a silver lining.

Arizona basketball is back.

–Vince Balestreri is a communication senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

More to Discover
Activate Search