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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Second-half struggles could cost Wildcats in Vegas and rest of March

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Tyler Baker
Arizona guard Allonzo Trier (11) prepares to shoot during Arizona’s 82-78 win against Colorado in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 10. The Wildcats face Oregon in the semifinal Friday with a pending championship game Saturday at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.

LAS VEGAS — A similar theme arose as the No. 4-seed Arizona Wildcats received a late game scare against the No. 5-seed Colorado Buffaloes on Thursday afternoon at the Pac-12 Tournament.

Yes, the Wildcats prevailed 82-78 and knocked off a team that recently beat them. Usually, that would sound like a confidence booster in postseason play. But in this case, it wasn’t.

Instead, Arizona succumbed to another tale of two halves in which it couldn’t string together enough consistent basketball to win in the manner it could, or should, have.

A somber tone overtook the Wildcats’ locker room following the win, reflecting head coach Sean Miller’s post-game thoughts.

“Our guys certainly did not play hard,” Miller said. “They didn’t play together in the second half defensively.”

The Wildcats kicked off the first half against Colorado with vengeance by getting out to a 33-11 lead while firing on all cylinders. Gabe York was once again feeling it from deep while Ryan Anderson was getting active early on.

Playing in front of a nearly sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena painted in cardinal red, the Wildcats found themselves sitting with a comfortable 17-point halftime advantage.

It appeared to be the final countdown in the second half for Colorado, but the Buffaloes, like any other desperate team, came out with their backs against the wall and started swinging. In a matter of minutes, the Wildcats’ precious double-digit lead was slowly slipping through their fingers. Miller doubted the mentality of the team as the minutes progressed.

“I questioned our effort whole-heartedly in the second half,” Miller said. “They shot 45 shots from the field in the second half and we shot 17. I haven’t been a part of a game like that.”

It was Colorado on the Thursday of the Pac-12 Tournament. Next Thursday or Friday, it could be a hungry, lower seed ready to take advantage of Arizona’s mercurial play.

March is all about survival and advancing, but Arizona’s performance in the second half isn’t anything short of concerning.

“If you hold our team to the standards of the past at Arizona or you look at us as competing for this tournament’s championship, we’re not going to be able to advance and be the same team that we’ve been,” Miller said.

Miller has been relaying this message all season but apparently his team has yet to embrace it. Now is the time. Whomever the Wildcats play in the Pac-12 Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament, they’ll need to do a better job of locking down for 40 minutes.

“Look at it this way: Everything is fine and we’re in the semifinals against Oregon. Awesome job. We advance and a lot of teams would have loved to,” Miller said. “Or you could really say our effort level has been as bad as I’ve ever seen in the last 20 minutes. I choose to focus on the second one.”

Arizona will face Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals Friday at 7 p.m., on the Pac-12 Networks.


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