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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

M-basketball: Arizona can regain swagger against NAU

Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat

When it lost to the BYU Cougars Saturday, the Arizona basketball team was admittedly scared by the big game’s bright lights, confused by a zone defense and, of course, another victim of BYU guard Jimmer Fredette.

But when it comes down to it, those three excuses for being at the losing end of a blowout came down to one thing — being ready. The Wildcats’ first chance to regain their effort will be in McKale Center Thursday against NAU at 7:30 p.m.

While head coach Sean Miller didn’t want to peg one poor showing as defining for the entire non-conference schedule, it was a sign of how far his Wildcats have to go.

“”We’ve had many guys who have taken some unbelievable ass-whuppings in big moments,”” Miller said during Wednesday’s press conference, noting a non-rebound by team leader Derrick Williams in the Nov. 27 loss to Kansas as an example.

“”Part of the culture, part of us getting our program back is to not except that, to get away from that and to be a team that everybody’s proud of because we fought hard,”” Miller added.

“”But that’s a hard thing to get.””

Miller called on Williams to improve his defense Wednesday. A team whose leader can score 20 points and plays no defense will finish 16-15, Miller said, pointing toward last year’s record.

And acknowledging Miller’s challenge, Williams took responsibility for Arizona’s effort against BYU, calling his 13 points performance the “”worst game I’ve played … probably since high school.””

“”I didn’t come out to play like I should have,”” he said. “”You think you’re playing hard, and then to watch the film, it’s a whole different story.””

When Williams isn’t playing well neither are his teammates, but the loss to the Cougars might have been a build-up rather than an isolated incident.

Miller said that after a home win against Oklahoma a week prior, his team didn’t have to same edge that it needed against the BYU Cougars or even the game a few days earlier, a sluggish 73-62 victory against Cal-State Fullerton.

“”I really thought some of our performance in BYU stemmed from the week leading up,”” Miller said. “”You can win a game and not play well, and set yourself for failure. You can lose a game, and play really well and really hard, and set yourself up for future success.

“”We got probably what we deserved,”” he said of the loss to BYU.

Miller hopes that moving forward his team will develop a defensive swagger. No matter who or where his team plays, he said defense and winning on the road go hand-in-hand.

“”Our defense left us in a big way Saturday,”” he said.

 

What to watch for against NAU:

• The Lumberjacks are shooting 43 percent from 3-point range, good enough for No. 8 in the nation in that statistic.

• NAU guard Cameron Jones, a senior, scored 29 points against Arizona last season.

• The Lumberjacks play a mix of man defense and match-up zone, according to Miller. Look for them to play a lot of the match-up against the Wildcats, who have struggled their last two games against 2-3 zones.

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