LAS VEGAS, Nev. – During a postgame team meeting, Arizona coach Sean Miller apologized for a technical foul that cost the Wildcats two points Friday. His players would have none of it, rallying behind him.
Senior Mark Lyons said Miller does not receive the credit he deserves from the officials, and senior Solomon Hill said he is glad to done with conference officiating.
“I feel like my coach should be more respected that to get a tech under four minutes,” Lyons said after UCLA’s 66-64 victory in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. “He’s been through a lot. He’s coached a lot of teams that have been a lot of places. I don’t feel like any other coach would have got that technical. I feel like they haven’t got enough respect for my coach and the things he’s done for the NCAA.”
Miller was hit with a technical foul after officials called Lyons for double-dribble with 4:37 remaining, and Jordan Adams made two free throws to tie the game at 56. UCLA won it on Kyle Anderson’s follow with 22 seconds left.
“When you lose by two and you gave them two and you’re the coach, you have to take that burden, and I’ve got that with me,” Miller said.
The players had his back.
“(Miller) said it was his fault. But I really don’t blame coach” said Hill, who had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. “I didn’t hear a curse word or anything from him. I’ve seen coach way worse than that. All he said was ‘He touched the ball.’
“Some of the refs were under great pressure. There are a lot of people here, a lot of officials here to watch them. They broke under pressure. For them to do something like that, it really turned the tide of the game. To give him a technical at crunch time like that, the way they were shooting free throws, was a burden on our back. We were in a helpless situation. I’m happy not to be playing in the Pac-12 anymore. A game like that, for so much to go down, to lose like that is very heartbreaking.”
The double-dribble call was inaccurate, Miller said, because a UCLA player touched the ball between the time Lyons put it on the floor and picked it up again. He was given no explanation.
“They don’t talk to me. So much of what happens is you’re in March, and everybody’s being super evaluated, the coaching box, the bench standing up. And everyone’s really, really tight because there is so much at stake,” Miller said.
“It’s just difficult, man, when you invest hundreds of hours, in Solomon’s case, thousands of hours. If I cuss and I’m out of control and I’ve been warned, shame on me. But when I say he touched the ball, he touched the ball … because quite frankly, I thought two of them could have maybe gotten together and explained that, in fact, he did touch the ball. That’s what I was hoping for. That technical right there is hard to swallow.”
Hill said he does not attend captains’ meetings with the officials.
“A smile on your face, and then you get on the court and they turn their head on you. I understand. The ref-basketball player relationship is really no relationship. They have their job to do and I have my job to do. It is just great to have a fresh start,” Hill said.
The Wildcats (25-7) will learn their NCAA destination Sunday, and they found some things to build on. They limited the Bruins to 39.3 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded them, but they had 13 turnovers to the Bruins’ five.
Hill was instrumental in holding Muhammad to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting after Muhammad had 23 and 18 points in the first two meetings.
“You have to be aggressive. You can’t relax on the guy. All it takes is one big 3 or something little from him to get going, an offensive rebound. He likes to go left. Just continue to upset him. When you get a guy like that, you saw the film when Larry Drew took the last shot, when you get him aggravated, irritated, he becomes a different part of the team,” Hill said, referring to the way Muhammad reacted after Larry Drew II beat Washington with a jump shot at the buzzer in the Bruins’ 59-57 win Feb. 7.
“We just wanted to keep that going. We tried to keep Shabazz limited, and they had another guy (Jordan Adams, 24 points)) from their team step up.”
Hill sees good things ahead.
“If our guys keep the same defensive intensity that we’ve had in this tournament and keep the same goals in mind and stay as a team, I think the sky is the limit for us,” he said.