The Arizona Wildcats will embark on their first Pac-12 road trip of the season this week, traveling to the Bay Area to take on Stanford and Cal on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively.
Having played true road games at Alabama and UConn already, Sean Miller doesn’t think it will be too much of a shock for his team, which swept Colorado and Utah to open conference play.
“You rely a lot on those experiences, how we prepared, how we traveled, how we practice on the day that we travel, trying to make it as familiar for our players as possible. But in the Pac-12, you leave, you play two games, you prepare for two games, it’s a little bit different,” he said Monday at his weekly press conference.
Here are some other quick notes from Monday’s interviews.
Miller said point guard Justin Coleman will practice fully Monday, exactly one week from when he dislocated his left shoulder. The senior did not practice at all last week before playing four minutes against Colorado and 32 against Utah.
“We’ll take it one day at a time,” Miller said when asked if he is optimistic about the point guard’s status for the Bay Area road trip. “He played (against Utah) so ... he got a lot of repetitions, and every day that goes by he gets healthier and I think becomes more of himself, but I credit Justin for giving us all that he had. I mean, you look around the country certain guys sit out different games and they bounce back. The fact he didn’t sit out this weekend is a real testament to his leadership, how tough he is and how much he cares about winning.”
Devonaire Doutrive had a breakout performance against Colorado on Thursday, posting eight points and four rebounds in a career-high 12 minutes, but only played six minutes against Utah.
Miller explained that discrepancy Monday.
“Devonaire is a freshman finding his way,” he said. “Love his talent, love his attitude, he gives us an offensive rebounder, a confident playmaker. How much he plays depends on a lot of different things, but we look at him as being a guy that came can contribute and be a part of the rotation.
“Part of it is Devonaire at this point in his life is 173 pounds. Sometimes he can be matched on a guy 230, so when you do the math that’s 57 pounds. That isn’t to his advantage. So I think when he gets bigger and stronger and older, and it’s not a 57-pound gap, it’s more of about maybe 45, 40, 30 then I think the sky’s the limit.”
Miller has never lost to Stanford since becoming Arizona’s head coach 2009, to which he mostly chalked up to having a lot of talent and some luck. Arizona squeaked by Stanford 73-71 in Palo Alto last season.
“We’ve had some really great games at Stanford. A couple of the times the ball’s bounced our way.” Miller said. “Winning isn’t always skill. Sometimes it’s good fortune and we’ve been blessed with a lot of good fortune. A couple of those games could have certainly gone either way. But for the most part we’ve taken some really good teams to Stanford as well and this year’s gonna be a really tough battle for us.”
We’ll have more on Miller’s thoughts about Stanford later in the week.
Miller said Arizona has a “good sense of who we are” at this point of the season.
“We’re not a very good offensive team, and it’s just a matter of how much better can we get, what are the things that we can control, and improve,” he said.
Arizona ranks 114th in the country in offensive efficiency, per KenPom, its worst mark ever under Miller. That said, the Wildcats have been strong on defense, ranking 35th in the country, a major improvement from last season when they finished 83rd.
“Last year, some some of it was personnel,” Miller said. “Very difficult to play two 7-footers and the same time on defense. ... What I’ll tell you about this year’s team is that I think we have a lot of togetherness, a lot of guys trying very hard, giving their all. We always have breakdowns and things we try to make better and fix, and when we’ve tried to do that, we’ve usually gotten some results. And that usually happens through practice and film.
“We weren’t nearly as good defensively as we needed to be against Utah. A lot of that is Utah is an excellent offensive team, but because of how good they are, they really challenge everything that we do. And we had way too many breakdowns. Sometimes it was scouting and concentration, details, things that are just ‘do this when when they do that.’ There are times when it’s just ability. There are certain positions where we don’t have the gift of size and teams are trying to take advantage of that. But we’ll learn a lot from our film. We did not practice yesterday, so we have a couple days to kind of learn from our past weekend and at the same time prepare for Stanford. But one thing we did against Utah which helped us win is we defensive rebounded and didn’t give them a lot of opportunities when they missed and thank goodness that was the one area we really checked out in.”
Ryan Luther said he is fully recovered from the hand injury he suffered in Maui, and has been for at least a week or two. The senior forward said the injury, which was to his non-shooting hand, affected his ability to catch and squeeze the ball.
“It affected me a little bit, but you can’t really use as an excuse,” he said. “I’m healthy now and that’s kind of behind me, so I don’t want that as an excuse. I’m just looking forward to improving.”
Luther, who has come off the bench ever since Maui, has battled inconsistency this season, but hit two big 3s in the second half vs. Utah.
Luther said it makes no difference to him whether he starts or not.
“My hope is that the more he’s out there, the more confident, the comfortable and sure of himself he’ll be,” Miller said. “Sometimes I don’t think it’s confidence as much as he doesn’t always look comfortable, and you just have to take into consideration he hasn’t been here very long.”
Arizona could use Luther’s shooting. The Wildcats are making just 32.7 percent of their 3s this season, but Luther has upped his percentage to 41.7 after his recent hot streak.
“If he’s not our team’s best shooter, he’s certainly one of our team’s best shooters,” Miller said. “So having him on the floor is always a threat in not only evaluating what he does, but also just having another guy out there who can make a shot helps his teammates with spacing. You have to account for where Ryan is on court because he has the ability she high percentage from 3.”
Luther was the lone player available to the media Monday. Here is the full video of his interview:
Arizona forward Ryan Luther spoke to the media Monday prior to the Bay Area road tripPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Monday, January 7, 2019