LAS VEGAS -- Sean Miller feels the same way about the Pac-12 officials as you do.
His job, however, requires that he's not too critical about it through the media. That went out the window on Friday night in the UCLA Bruins' 66-64 win that sent them to the Pac-12 Tournament title game.
With 4:37 left in the game and the Wildcats clinging to a 56-54 lead that had shrunk from 11, Miller was called for a technical foul when Arizona point guard Mark Lyons seemingly lost the ball, then regained it leading to a turnover. The Wildcats' head coach thought that UCLA Bruins guard Jordan Adams touched the ball, thereby making it a legal play.
So he made it known, and the officials called a technical.
And after the game, Miller didn't really want to talk much about any Xs and Os. He was pretty upset with himself for earning the call. In the postgame press conference, nearly every question thrown Miller's way went back to the technical foul.
"I told our team after the game that's all completely on me … That's unacceptable," Miller began. "(Adams) made both free throws, hence the difference in the game. The reason I got a technical foul is because I said, 'He touched the ball. He touched the ball.'
"Like, in other words," Miller continued, his speech losing its PR savvy and his intensity growing, "Mark Lyons dribbled – and by the way when you show the replay here on ESPN in a few seconds – he touched the ball. They touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball. He touched the ball.
"That's a hard one now when you work August, September, October, November, December, January, February, and here we are," Miller said, pointing to senior Solomon Hill. "My man over here? He's never coming back here again (points to Hill). His coach gets a technical foul. Didn't cuss, didn't challenge him. By the way, it's my first technical foul of the year. That's what this is about? By the way, full credit given to UCLA. They did a great job."
Yes. That was all in one puff of emotion.
And it didn't end there.
Miller pointed to the free throw discrepancy as a reason the Wildcats eventually lost. UCLA went 17-of-21 while Arizona shot nine and made seven. Arizona was also exceptional in its three-point opportunities, shooting 7-for-17 from long range. The Wildcats even held the Bruins to one longball in 12 tries.
But those two extra points, man.
"We didn't have enough defensive fortitude hanging in there, being able to get that big stop when we really needed it," Miller said. "And again, you got to keep this in mind. I gave them two points. The score was 66-64, I gave them two. That's on me."
Silly me tried to get analytical with Miller. He usually is always glad to answer schematic questions, after all.
Me: Coach, and maybe Brandon can chime in on this, can you talk about UCLA's post defense? It seems like they were doubling a bit. And also how did the young guys – especially Kaleb and Brandon – pass out of those double-teams and make plays?
Miller, first answering my question with great detail: "UCLA traps the post, they do it every game. One of the things we wanted to do was not refrain from throwing it in there, but give it to multiple guys playing out of it. I thought we did a good job. It's tough when you shoot nine free throws. We didn't do a good enough job of getting fouled. That's the bottom line.
And then ...
"And I think if you look at the difference in the game, other than the two points that I gave them on the technical foul for saying what I said, they were 17-for-21 from the line, we were 7-for-9. You start looking at the stat sheet, that and their turnovers – they do a great job of not turning the ball over – is the reason that we lost. That and again, got to keep this in mind: I gave them two free throws."
There was a lot more, including:
Sean Miller on the final play as UA was down 66-64
"We were down two points, I think that is well documented right now," the coach said, taking a sarcastic tone. "We didn't need a three. So we ran a play and put the ball in Solomon's hands, like we've done so many times. Thought he made a great move. Almost took a three that could've been challenged, shot fake, got a good two off."
Sean Miller on if the referees provided an explanation for the technical
"They don't talk to me. They don't talk to me. So much of what's happened is, you're in March and everybody is being super evaluated. The coaching box, the bench standing up. Everyone is really, really tight because so much is at stake. It's just difficult, man, when you invest 100 of hours, in Solomon's case, thousands of hours. If I cuss, and I'm out of control and I've been warned, then shame on me. But when I say, 'He touched the ball, he touched the ball,' because quite frankly I thought maybe two of them could have gotten together and say, maybe he did touch the ball. That technical right there is hard to swallow. When you lose by two and you gave them two, and you're the coach, you have to take that burden and I take that with me."
Sean Miller on what the Wildcats can learn from the loss as they look toward the NCAA tournament
"Got to stay in the coaching box," Miller quickly responded to a question before Brandon Ashley or Hill could speak. "And you got to be real, real careful now as the coach, what you say. That's what I've learned."
Hill followed it up by saying that the Wildcats must keep their recent defensive intensity that held the Bruins to 39 percent shooting and limited point guard Larry Drew behind Nick Johnson's defense.
"I think we continue to playing defense the way we have been in this tournament," Hill said. "I think the sky is the limit for us. I think we need to be a little more aggressive going to the rim and getting some fouls. But all in all, we have to stay as a team. Continue playing as a fist and not let outside sources really dictate our play."
Retorted Miller: "You can see what a great leader Solomon is; he's much more poised than me right now."
Hill does it all, as usual
Solomon Hill held freshman phenom Shabazz Muhammad to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. UCLA coach Ben Howland said he voted Hill as the second-best player in the Pac-12 behind Cal's Allen Crabbe (coach's cannot vote for their own players).
"I never want to see him again," Howland said.
A funny statistical mistake
Pac-12 officials announced right after Miller's testy press conference that they were reprinting box scores, as there was one mistake.
Ironically, it was about that Miller technical. It had been punched in as a technical on the UCLA Bruins bench.
"That is incorrect ... as you just heard," Pac-12 elder-statesmen and former Arizona Athletics media rep Tom Duddleston cracked.