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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Exposed in SoCal

LOS ANGELES — You fell for it.

You fell for the top-10 ranking, you believed Derrick Williams could not be stopped, and you couldn’t think of a reason head coach Sean Miller shouldn’t win Coach of the Year.

You fell for it all, and one weekend in Los Angeles was all it took to unravel everything.

The only word to describe it: “”exposed.””

There’s no stat on the box score to directly measure effort, but these numbers do fine:

— Selfish basketball: Arizona had seven total assists, none of which came from either point guard. On Thursday’s loss at USC, the Wildcats only had two assists — Miller said “”that’s impossible”” even though, well, now it’s possible.

— Out-rebounded: UCLA 40, Arizona 26.

— Out-toughed: UCLA scored 50 points in the paint. Combine that with free throws and the Bruins scored 63 of its 71 points by not settling for a jumper.

The offense couldn’t get anything started. Arizona shot 25 percent in the second half from the floor.

Miller kept his team in the locker room for more than 30 minutes after the game. We wondered if they would ever come out to talk about what happened.

Who knows what they talked about in that room. The only player made available to post-game interviews was Kyryl Natyazhko.

I asked him why this team didn’t show up:

“”I have no answer for that,”” Natyazhko said.

He only gave one reason for the loss:

“”I felt like we didn’t play hard,”” he said.

Meanwhile on the court, fans and players celebrated the final game in the now-old Pauley Pavilion. They danced, snapped photos and partied to the music of a season-defining win.

The game-of-the-year atmosphere went into a frenzy when John Wooden’s great grandson, walk-on Tyler Trapani, scored the final two points of the game — the first of his career.

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke called Trampani’s basket the “”alley-oop from heaven.”” From Miller’s view, it was just two more points from the paint after an uncontested rebound.

Arizona’s demoralized bench soaked it up, hunched over with heads buried in their hands. In between each of them, the chips on their shoulders swelled up.

Maybe that’s the only way Arizona wins. Right now the responsibility of handling national attention proved too difficult and distracting, to the point where Williams said Thursday’s loss was “”a good thing”” to clamp down the egos of 12 players still unfamiliar with that caliber of college basketball success.

This weekend, the same 12 players who started the season 23-4 will play two more basketball games at home, against mediocre opponents no less.

The season’s first back-to-back losses shouldn’t alarm anyone because, believe it or not, Arizona’s still tied for first place in the Pacific 10 Conference with two home games remaining. The other team tied for first place, UCLA, must travel to Washington.

And that’s the real perspective.

Gets you every time.

— Bryan Roy is an interdisciplinary studies senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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