Offensive success in basketball can be achieved in a number of ways, but the simplest path is by taking—and making—good shots.
The Arizona Wildcats have done a fairly good job of the former, at least in the eyes of coach Sean Miller, whether that be through ball movement to find the open man or driving the lane to get to the basket.
It’s when the ball leaves the Wildcats’ hands, though, where things have gone badly. Really badly.
“Shooting is a problem for us, scoring the ball is a problem for us,” Miller said Tuesday.
Arizona’s field goal percentage has dropped to 42.4 percent, which would be its worst rate since 1971-72 when the Wildcats shot 42.2 percent during a 6-20 season. Even the 4-24 team from 1982-83, the worst in school history, made 43.8 percent of its shots.
And while Arizona’s three-point shooting has been inconsistent, currently sitting at 33.8 percent, hot perimeter nights have bailed the Wildcats out on numerous occasions this season. The same can’t be said for their ability to score closer to the basket, where more than 63 percent of Arizona’s shots come from.
The five-game losing streak has seen Arizona bottom out on two-point attempts, shooting 35.7 percent on twos during that stretch. For the season its two-point field goal percentage is 47.4 percent, good for 296th out of 353 Division I teams, and in Pac-12 play the Wildcats are dead-last at 41.8 percent.
But wait, it gets worse.
The two-point jump shot is arguably the worst shot in basketball, and Arizona has made this quite evident with their inability to make them. According to Hoop-Math.com, the Wildcats’ 30.9 percent rate on two-point jumpers is better than only 11 other teams in the country, and since Pac-12 play began that “accuracy” has dropped to 28.6 percent.
At least they’re making those bunnies, though, right? Well …
Arizona missed 11 layups or dunks against Washington State, something it’s managed to accomplish six times in 11 conference games. The Jan. 24 loss at USC, which started the current skid, saw the Wildcats go 8 of 25 on shots at the rim, attributing to a season percentage of 63.2 percent on attempts that are supposed to be gimmes.
In Pac-12 games, Arizona is making a paltry 53.7 percent of its layups and dunks. That’s worse than bad NBA big men are at the free throw line.
When asked what the issue is, Miller had no clear answer.
“I don’t think it’s a common problem, a big guy not finishing is different from a guard because you know guards are going to drive the ball to the basket where a lot of times frontcourt players are already there,” he said. “It’s different issues for different players.”
Chase Jeter is Arizona’s most—and really only—reliable weapon in the paint, making 72.6 percent of his shots at the rim and 59.5 percent overall. But since returning from his back injury he’s just 5 for 15 from the field as teams key on him inside and force others to make interior shots.
Another way to illustrate how horrible Arizona has been on offense: a team that has struggled all season on the boards is actually leading the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding percentage.