The warning signs were there early on for Arizona coach Sean Miller.
The foul shooting woes popped up again, and even rebounding was an issue as the Arizona Wildcats beat Weber State 68-59 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A win is a win, and if UA needed another lesson in how not to play, it got it Friday in San Diego.
Weber State built a 7-0 lead with quick-hit punches but unlike Arizona's last game against UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament title game, the Wildcats didn't allow the transition defense issue to fester. Soon, it became apparent that Weber State wasn't going to handle ball pressure well. The Arizona defense pushed Weber State's offensive initiation well beyond the three-point line, and Sean Miller's coaching tactics took hold from there.
The usual mild hedging on pick-and-rolls was selective, and Arizona ran full-out, aggressive traps on Weber State big man Kyle Tresnak.
Meanwhile, Nick Johnson and the defense frustrated Weber State's leading scorer, Davion Berry. He went 1-for-8 from the floor in the first half and at one point launched a quick attempt, as if handing UA's suffocating late-game defense the win.
Berry finished with 24 points but went 5-for-20 from the floor, and he led an attack that gained a bit of steam late in the second half.
Arizona held Weber State to 30 percent shooting and hit 55 percent itself.
But in forcing so many misses, the Wildcats hardly ran. The defense to early offense transition just wasn't present, and Arizona only chipped away to earn a 21-point lead with 10:34 to go by way of its defense. Once Weber State got a little daylight, it was fairly easy to shoot its way back into it.
Randy Rahe's team went on a 13-2 run over the course of just three minutes, and Berry hit two free throws with less than five minutes to play, cutting the UA lead to 60-51. Johnson hit a big three to answer, but Berry came back with a shotclock-beating, three-point bank shot, bringing Weber State within 63-54 with two minutes left.
The purple-clad Wildcats were within seven in the final half-minute, yet Arizona left with a lackluster victory.
Sean Miller said in his television interview afterward that he was worried about his team looking like it wasn't enjoying the moment, playing as a team. And that might have been why there wasn't a killer instinct to be found.
Nick Johnson led Arizona with 18 points, and Gabe York got the starting unit churning with eight first-half points. Aaron Gordon scored 16 points to go with eight rebounds and five blocks, but he had issues containing Weber State forward Joel Bolomboy, who had 11 points and 16 rebounds -- Weber State won the boards 32-31.
Perhaps the most concerning problem for Arizona and the reason for their lack of punch was the rare involvement from point guard T.J. McConnell. He went 0-for-4 from the floor, couldn't score his first point on a late front end of a trip to the free throw line, and didn't find teammates with penetration leading to kick-outs.
Whether Gonzaga or Oklahoma State comes up next, Miller's Wildcats won't survive the next round playing timidly on offense and finding itself in trouble thanks to lapses to start and to finish.