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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Wildcats struggle when playing similar pace

Sydney Richardson
Arizona guard Gabe York (1) waits across court on Saturday, Jan. 23 in Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, California. The Wildcats have struggled in California for much of the season.

With Arizona returning home this week after splitting on the road in the Bay Area, beating Stanford and losing to California in heartbreaking 74-73 fashion, the Wildcats are placed in a tough position in the middle of the Pac-12 Conference.

Following the split on the road, Arizona is now 3-4 in the state of California, counting the DirecTV Wooden Legacy and its first conference road trip to Los Angeles.

Don’t put the blame on the bad luck of playing in California, but rather Arizona having a strenuous time against teams that play at a similar pace.

Arizona plays its best basketball when fast break opportunities turn into a layup drill, because it’s simple, a missed basket or turnover turns into a quick outlet pass to a guard and then a quick bucket.

Last week against the Washington schools was arguably the Wildcats’ best weekend of conference play. Washington has an extremely talented, yet youthful team who Arizona managed to score 24 points off of turnovers against.

It’s all fun and dandy when points come with ease, as the Wildcats are scoring more than 70 points per game in the conference. However, when teams come right back at Arizona with the fast tempo, it’s a coin flip for whoever wins the game and that’s shown in every loss for the Wildcats.

Going back to their first loss against Providence, the Friars forced 21 turnovers and had a seven-point advantage in points off of turnovers. Cal only had three points less than the Wildcats and USC had two more fast break points than Arizona.

A similar situation happened Saturday night in the second half, when Arizona head coach Sean Miller, reintroduced the 2-3 zone defense and lack of transition defense, leading to Jordan Mathews having a career night with 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting.

Cal had 14 points off of turnovers to go along with seven fast break points. The Golden Bears moved the ball up the court, especially in the second half. Their controlling the tempo even though Arizona was comfortable in that pace might have been the difference maker.

“Cal is really good in transition of off turnovers and misses and I thought that really was the difference in the game because their push in transition and ability to find [Jordan Mathews] and the points they generated was too much for us to overcome,” Miller said.

With the spotlight on the Cal freshmen duo Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown, it was Mathews that created separation late in the game in the right corner by going up five with just over a minute left.

“A lot of his shots didn’t come in the half court offense, it came in the transition where I thought his teammates did a great job finding him and when they found him, they made us pay,” Miller said. “We went to a 2-3 zone one time and I didn’t recognize him in the corner and he made us pay. A shooter of his caliber and the way he is playing, certainly the way he played tonight, he was the difference tonight.”

It doesn’t get much easier for Arizona, even though the Wildcats are at their best at home. Oregon defeated Cal by 14 points and former Miller recruit Tyler Dorsey, who is averaging 13.8 points per game, will suit up for the Ducks and test the Arizona backcourt once again.

Cal has shot 35 percent from 3-pointer for the entire season and Oregon is right behind them with 34 percent. If they’re anything like their football’s offense, then the Wildcats will play man-to-man defense for the most part.

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