Ryan Luther had a strong start in the Maui Invitational before crashing hard in the final two games.
The fifth-year senior had 12 points and eight rebounds in the Arizona Wildcats’ opener against Iowa State, then was held scoreless in the losses to Gonzaga and Auburn.
That stark contrast isn’t exactly a coincidence. UA coach Sean Miller revealed Tuesday that Luther injured his non-shooting hand against Iowa State (the details don’t go beyond that), which he thinks stunted Luther’s aggression.
“He’s going to be OK, but in fairness to him, I owe him the truth in that if you start keeping stats of what he did in Maui, it’s unfair to judge him because he played three games in three days with an injury that a lot of guys would have sat out with,” Miller said at his weekly press conference. “He’s practicing here today and I think every day that goes by each week that moves forward, he’ll move closer and closer to 100 percent. But that would have helped us a tremendous amount if we had him at 100 percent for all three games for sure.”
Arizona’s offense struggled in Maui, shooting 42 percent or worse in all three games, and it has been inconsistent all season.
Even when Luther was healthy, Miller noted the importance of getting the forward more open looks, since he is one of the team’s best shooters but isn’t one to force the issue.
“The challenges for us as a coaching staff is to get the very best out of all of our players, and I find the challenge offensively here is we have so many new faces that it almost takes a month of this year to really understand what works, what doesn’t, maybe what we can do to better suit each of these guys individually on offense,” Miller said.
“And I wish I had it right from day one, but some of our errors in Maui, it’s just organization. It’s just being more organized, being more detailed, putting someone like Ryan Luther in a position to call his number in and make sure that we get a balance of throwing him the ball around the basket more. He’s not someone who’s going to take it upon himself to do that. He’s going to have to do it with our help.”
Learning lessons like that is why Miller said playing in the Maui Invitational “was a blessing” for the rebuilding Wildcats, who are still trying to find their way early in the season.
“There’s no secrets anymore,” he said. “You kind of feel good about the things you’re good at with the hope that you can just improve on those things. And then your concern on the weaknesses that your team has is real. And now it’s just a matter of where we can go from a week ago to this week to a month from now.”