Arizona lacked focus, maturity against LA schools

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Five spots in the rankings. 

That's all it took for the No. 18 Arizona basketball team to go from a squad that felt disrespected by the national media to an overconfident team that couldn't escape LA with a victory. 

Back in early February when the Wildcats were No. 15 in the country after their triple-overtime win against Cal, everyone from Sean Miller to Derrick Williams said Arizona didn't get the national love it deserved.

Four wins and five spots later and Arizona looked borderline cocky as they forgot to show up against USC and UCLA. That's how easy it is for media hype to get to the heads of these 18, 19 and 20-year-olds. 

When asked if the top-10 ranking got to the ballooned Arizona's collective ego, Miller bluntly said, "I do."

"Do I think that the top-10 ranking, being 23-4, the Washington whiteout home game probably had us off track a little bit? Yes," he added.

Miller, who chose not to make his players available during Tuesday's weekly press conference, elaborated that it's only human nature to get caught up in all of the hype, but Arizona's lack of maturity and experience certainly didn't help. 

"We don't have a real mature team. I don't say that to be negative at all," Miller said. "We obviously have a very good team but it's not as if we have a bunch of players that have been through a lot and are in their fourth year."

That lack of maturity showed as the Wildcats fell apart down the stretch against the Trojans, while suffering a beat-down in the paint two nights later. They looked soft and uninterested, while lacking a competitive edge. 

Arizona as a whole regressed considerably, but no one declined more than Williams. On the weekend Williams averaged 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds on only 8-of-22 shooting, while attempting only six free throws -- he led the nation with 9.2 FTAs per game before last weekend. 

He struggled mightily with the bigger front lines of USC and UCLA and didn't look like the Williams fans saw for the first 27 games of the season. 

"I think Derrick would be the first one to tell you that he wasn't at his best," Miller said. "He wasn't as focused, especially in the USC game, just the way he played on offense, the way our team played on offense."

Despite the LA struggles, Arizona is still tied with UCLA for first in the Pac-10 with Oregon State and Oregon on tap to close out the regular season. UCLA, on the other hand takes on the Huskies in Seattle and the Cougars in Pullman.

If Arizona takes care of business at home and the Bruins falter, the Wildcats will be crowned Pac-10 champions, which wasn't exactly a lock heading into this season. 

"If I would have told you guys the very first time we got together in October that we would be playing Oregon State and Oregon for the Pac-10 title for our 24th and 25th possible win, on your end you would probably say 'wow a lot would have to go right for these guys,'" Miller said. 

Parrom to play more, possibly start?

Amid Arizona's recent slide, Kevin Parrom is playing some of the best basketball of his career. The sophomore wing is averaging 9.6 points over the last eight games, in just around 20 minutes per contest -- a number that should increase from here on out. 

"Regardless of who's starts, we have to play Kevin more," Miller said. "I don't think he goes from playing 20 minutes a game to 40. But playing him 25 minutes a game, he's earned that."

"When you're on an eight-game win streak, things are going well, it's tough to change. When you lose a couple, you reflect and I think see things in a clearer light," Miller added. "Kevin's play has emerged. He's become a better player now than he was at any time and he just does a lot of good things for us and he's earned the right to play more."

 

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