Frustration setting in for Miller, Wildcats

TUCSON — Arizona coach Sean Miller admitted Saturday

that he’s a bit frustrated with his team. And why not? It’s inconsistent and

stuttering. And it continues to struggle with first-half fits or lapses.

“I spent about an hour and a half (on Saturday afternoon during the game)

motivating, begging, pleading, yelling, screaming, subbing, and it’s a shame

that didn’t come from within (his players),” Miller said.

The result: UA fell 59-57 to the Oregon Ducks in the McKale Center on Saturday

afternoon.

Arizona did have two shots at a win or a tie. UA’s Brendon Lavender, arguably

the hottest shooter in the Pac-12 Conference the last couple of weeks, missed a

3-pointer with seven seconds left. Senior Kyle Fogg found the rebound, only to

miss about a 10-footer at the buzzer.

“I feel good that (Lavender) had a pretty good look from 3 to win the

game,” Miller said. “And (there was) a nice pull-up by Kyle.”

Miller added that the lessons-learned process for Arizona is long gone. Moral

victories and tough losses don’t apply anymore. Nothing will be gained from

Arizona’s loss to Oregon. Not when his team played about half of it at full

speed.

“I think it says a lot about our team and our leadership and where we

are,” Miller said. “We didn’t get the job done.”

To put it mildly, Miller said “we have some challenges.”

The first one — again — continues to be getting through the first half with

some grit and guts. Arizona consistently hasn’t had either in many games. Against

Oregon, the first 20 minutes proved to be too much to overcome as the Ducks led

34-22 at the half. Oregon increased its lead to 41-24 with 17:33 to go, but UA rallied

and actually grabbed a 55-54 lead with 2:59 remaining.

Although Miller commended his team for the late-game rally, he was disheartened

by its overall effort.

“I’m very disappointed in our team,” Miller said. “We are not the most talented Arizona team. We’re certainly not the biggest Arizona team, but

what we can control is collective effort. And for 20 minutes, we picked and

(chose) how hard we were going to play.”

He said the game was too “physical for us.” He used the term

“men against boys” when it came to the rebounding effort in the first

20 or so minutes. UO held a 16-11 advantage in rebounding in the first half and

forced UA into 10 first-half turnovers.

Miller said the team was “15 percent at best” when it came to concentration.

The Wildcats’ 22 first-half points were one more than their season-low, which

occurred in a 71-60 loss to Gonzaga in Seattle.

“Sucks,” said Solomon Hill of the loss. “The first-half play was

the reason why we lost.”

Arizona fell to 12-6 overall and 3-2 in the Pac-12. It’s the second loss at

home this season after having a 22-game home winning streak, which started in

2009-10.

“I’m tired of it,” Hill said, “tired of losing in my own gym. My

freshman year we got beat a lot here. I don’t like losing here. It’s a funny

feeling. I haven’t lost a conference game here since my freshman year.”

Hill attempted to do his part in helping Arizona rally. Down 45-31 with 14:38 left,

Hill, who finished with a game-high 16 points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers and

then converted on a three-point play to help Arizona inch back. But the Ducks

kept the ‘Cats at a distance before Arizona re-rallied with an 11-0 run in a

four-minute span to take its lead.

But like it’s been all season for the Ducks, it found a way

to win. Oregon is now 9-0 in games decided by 10 or fewer points.

“A win is a win in the league. We traditionally haven’t done well

here,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said, referring to it being the program’s second

sweep of the Arizona schools on a weekend trip. “We are not hitting on all

cylinders. We played good, but I know we can play great.”

Miller isn’t sure what to think about his team. He said outside of maybe the

last 16 minutes where Arizona played with “great confidence and courage,”

Arizona didn’t have it.

Freshman Nick Johnson said a solution might be for his team to be more

proactive than reactive. Saturday was the perfect example. UA had to attack

instead of waiting to be attacked.

“That’s what we have to do down the road — not wait for something to

happen,” Johnson said. “We have to do it ourselves.”

Or losses will continue to mount.

“The conference is going to be hard to win but the team that can play 40

minutes every game can win it,” Hill said. “I don’t see why not. It’s

not like someone is going out there and kicking everybody’s butt in the

conference. It sucks that we can’t take advantage.”