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‘We can’t make a shot’: Arizona’s offense is historically bad in 2018-19

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats’ offense is struggling at a historic rate, and it’s no secret what the problem is.

“We can’t make a shot,” said coach Sean Miller.

The Wildcats went 42 for 138 (30.4%) from the field when they were drubbed by a combined 44 points against USC and UCLA this weekend, including a 13-for-51 mark (25%) from 3. Arizona couldn’t score inside or out against the zone, or even at the free-throw line where it went 29 for 43 (67.4%).

“I thought at times we really moved the ball, attacked by getting the ball in the middle or dribble penetrating, but at the end of the day, someone’s gotta throw that thing in and we’re really struggling in that area,” Miller said after the loss to UCLA.

Sure, the team’s most efficient scorer, Chase Jeter, missed both games with a back injury which rid UA of its lone low-post threat, but these offensive woes did not begin in Los Angeles.

Arizona was, and still is, on pace for its worst offensive season in decades.

Consider: the Wildcats currently rank 138th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. (“Adjusted” means a team’s strength of schedule is taken into account.) The worst UA has ever ranked under Miller was 87th back in 2011-12 when it finished 23-12 and lost to Bucknell in the first round of the NIT.

Arizona also finished 83rd in adjusted offensive efficiency back in Miller’s first season, 2009-10, when it compiled a 16-15 record, easily the worst season of his tenure.

The 2018-19 squad is shooting 43.3 percent from the field, Arizona’s lowest mark since 1971-72 when it shot 42.2 percent. The Wildcats, then in the WAC, won six games that year.

The offense has only gotten worse in league play too, shooting just 40.5 percent against Pac-12 foes.

Arizona lacks shot-creators just as much as it lacks shot-makers. No player is averaging more than four assists per game, yet only two players — Justin Coleman and Brandon Williams — are averaging more than 1.1 assists per game.

In all, only 49.4 of Arizona’s baskets have been assisted this season, which ranks 240th in the country. The Wildcats also do not get many points in transition, playing at the 193rd-quickest pace in the country.

But Arizona’s problems are less about schematics and more about a lack of execution, stemming from a dearth of talent and, after two blowout losses, which Miller admitted “take a toll” on the team, a lack of confidence.

How else can you explain why Arizona missed 11 of its 17 layup attempts against UCLA or failed to get a single point when it had two 4-on-1 fastbreaks against USC?

“I thought we got shots we are capable of making, it’s just about hitting them,” Williams said after the loss to UCLA. “We were getting open and we’ve got to do a better job of hitting some.”

All quotes via Christopher Boan of Tucson Weekly. You can find his work here.