The Arizona Wildcats’ first loss of the 2019-20 season was an historic one, as their 26.9 percent shooting at Baylor was the lowest in coach Sean Miller’s 11 years at the school. The fact they were within two points of the Bears, on the road, before falling 63-58 was a testament to the Wildcats’ late effort on what was otherwise a very disappointing day.
Our full recap can be found here, but below are Miller’s thoughts during his postgame radio interview:
On the game overall: “We didn’t play well enough to win. Fourteen for 52 from the floor, 27 percent. Two for 18 from 3. One of the things we did do well was we got to the line 34 times and we converted 28 of them, which is a very good stat for us, especially being that we were on the road. Kind of the same storyline for us, though, the 11 turnovers at the half really hurt us. Whether the shots were going in or not, you can’t make a shot that you don’t take. A number of those 11 turnovers fueled an open three or a coast-to-coast drive in the first half, and it was a big reason that we were down by 11 points (and) had only 24 points in the first half.
“To our team’s credit, we were much better in the second half, and that’s why we were a better team. We only turned the ball over five times in the second half.”
On the shot selection: “We had a number of guys that that didn’t necessarily play well on offense. Sometimes you think you get good looks, and maybe you didn’t, but we we clearly have to get better. The problem with us right now ... is when we’re in transition and the ball is going in, that’s when we’re at our best. We want to play with tempo. But no matter what anybody thinks when you play against good teams on the road, and the college basketball season grows, the early shots aren’t going to be as plentiful nor are they going to be as open. Too many times when you take quick, ill-advised shots you almost put that in a category of a turnover. You have X number of those, plus 15 turnovers, and then you don’t have maybe your typical night when you get a couple good ones. Next thing you know you end up with 58 points.”
On the defense: “Our defense was as good as it’s been. We played against three really terrific guards. The fact is, in the second half, I thought, you look at their stats in the second half, I mean, they were 6 for 27 from the field, 1 for 11 from three. Our defense was certainly good enough. We also forced 16 turnovers, they are a team that doesn’t turn the ball over. We made some real strides in that area.”
On the team’s health: “We had a number of guys not practice throughout the week and you never can ever, ever feel good about that. And there’s just too many parts to our game today that reflected a choppy week of practice when you consider who played in the game and who practiced, and that’s something we also have to address.”
On rallying in the second half: “We had a good segment, I would say the second half, it might have been just for eight to 10 minutes where, whether we missed or made the shot, we got real good looks, we executed. I think it was the one possession where we could have tied or taken the lead, we called an offensive set and Baylor, to their credit, they blew it up. Those are the are the opportunities, when you’re a good team, it’s like you have an opportunity late in the game you fought and scratched to execute and get a good shot. Now, whether you miss it or not, we can’t always control that. But they ended up taking us out of the play just because they blew our screens up, we couldn’t get open. And it’s probably my fault, maybe I should have saved the timeout. So much of it is, you want to give your team a chance to have a chance to win and I thought that some of the timeouts that we tried to call were to just to keep us in the game, keep us in the game. We gave ourselves a chance. Under the two-minute mark, when you’re in a single-possession game, you’re going to have a chance to win. A lot of times, that’s all you can ask. It didn’t feel that way because (of) our offense.”
On freshman Christian Koloko, who played a career-high 12 minutes: “He had two blocks, two assists, one behind-the-back pass, which was one of the best passes that I’ve seen a big man have. It was a lot of poise on his end. He played confident, did his job. One of the two blocks was when they had their point guard on him, the point guard had the ball, Christian was matched up on him and it’s (a) tough feat for him to be in that situation. I think he ended up blocking a three-point shot. No doubt it was good to get Christian in the game. I thought he really did a nice job for our team for sure.”
On the lessons learned from the loss: “You’re not always going to be able to score in the first 10 seconds of the possession. I also think that it shows our guys that, when your offense isn’t clicking, you can still win. It’s just a matter of you got to do a great job of blocking out, you gotta get tough stops, and you gotta stay with it. You’re not always, through to a 35-game season, going to hit and be hot from the field and be a prolific offensive team. The bottom fell out on us a little bit tonight on offense. Some of it is Baylor’s a good defensive team and some of it is, like we talked about, lessons learned and an opportunity to grow.”