For the fourth time in a row, the Arizona Wildcats have been defeated. This time, the loss came at home to the Washington Huskies by a score of 67-60. There were chances for a win, but ultimately UW held control for most of the game for the victory. To look at both the positives and negatives of the game, here’s 3 up and 3 down.
1: Chase Jeter
Chase Jeter spent the week of the Los Angeles road trip injured, and it was arguably the main reason Arizona was blown out against UCLA and USC. He obviously wasn’t 100 percent last week in Tempe, and probably wasn’t this week, but he’s much closer to his previous form.
Jeter put up a typical statline compared to his December and January performances, with slightly smaller numbers due to the injury. Jeter went 4 for 6 from the field and 4 for 4 from the line for 12 points, grabbing three rebounds and blocking three shots. He also succumbed to his typical issue of fouls, fouling out with two minutes left in the game and spending most of the second half with four personal fouls and thus fewer minutes on the court. Still, seeing Jeter play well suggests Arizona can turn the losing ways around soon.
2: Justin Coleman
Jeter spent most of the first 20 games of the season as the undisputed leader of the team. With him injured, and with Brandon Williams out for a while, Justin Coleman stepped up in a big way, and was easily the MVP of the game for the Wildcats.
Coleman has typically been one of the many players chucking up threes all game for UA. That partially held true on Thursday, but Coleman counteracted his 1 for 4 mark from deep with a 3 for 4 mark inside the line to go 4 for 8 from the field. The real encouraging sign was Coleman’s free throw shooting (7 for 10). Getting to the line 10 times is always a good thing, and while only making seven is suboptimal, it could have been much worse.
His 16 points and five rebounds led the team, and he also chipped in four assists. If Coleman can replicate this performance for the next month, Arizona is in good shape.
3: Jaylen Nowell Slowed Down
It’s no secret that Washington’s Jaylen Nowell is the massive favorite to win Pac-12 Player of the Year. He’s been a force for the Huskies, and while he still played great against Arizona, the Wildcats managed to keep him from taking the game into his own hands.
Nowell still shot 60 percent from the floor, but all but one of those shots was from inside the arc, and his one three-point attempt missed. He didn’t get to the line once in the game, and the UA defense forced him into four turnovers. That being said, he still did accrue 12 points, six rebounds and four assists on his sloppiest night in weeks. It’s still a positive any time your team can cover a player like Nowell well, especially without Williams on the floor.
1: Missed Opportunity
If there has been a recurring theme in Arizona’s three losses in conference play where Jeter was on the floor, it’s that Arizona could have won them. Against Oregon, the defense wasted a great performance due to very cold shooting from three. Against ASU, the Sun Devils never bothered to pull away from the outmanned ‘Cats until overtime, which could have been avoided altogether with another made shot or two. Now, against Washington, more mistakes doomed another great defensive performance, and Arizona now sits at 5-5 in conference play.
The three-point shooting was again dismal, as it has been for at least half of the season. The team made just 4 of 18 attempts from deep, and it’s never been more evident that this team dies by the three more than it lives by it. Free throw shooting was a disappointing 69.6 percent, with only Chase Jeter and Ira Lee making all of their foul shots. Still, Arizona was only down one at halftime, and a win was within reach for some of the second half.
The Wildcats actually outrebounded Washington, and the two were tied in assists and only one apart in turnovers. And still, the game ended with a loss due to very poor shooting.
There’s no way a team who’s lost four straight and five of its last six isn’t having morale problems. While losing isn’t helping, there’s no doubt that more news swirling about the FBI probe hasn’t affected the program.
Assistant Mark Phelps was just recently put on administrative leave for his role in recruiting Shareef O’Neal to come to Arizona, who’s now sitting the season out at UCLA. Many news organizations are calling for the university to take more action concerning the allegations, including some thinking Sean Miller may be on his way out. The fanbase has grown worried, angry, and hurt in the wake of over 18 months of bad press for Arizona, and we’re still not sure exactly which allegations, if any, are true.
This is still a talented team at a program with a rich history, an I’m sure Miller has done a good job keeping the team focused. Still, beating the Pac-12 leaders at home would have done wonders for the university, city, and fanbase. Now, the cacophony of negativity will continue to grow. At least ASU lost to Washington State.
3: Foul Trouble
I’ve been harping on this for damn near the entire season, and with Brandon Williams out of the lineup, it has become even more important for Arizona’s best players to avoid fouling out. Results were mixed against Washington, but two of Arizona’s big men were in serious foul trouble, and it hurt the team late.
Jeter, as mentioned above, fouled out with two minutes left after spending almost the whole second half with four personals. This definitely hurt the team, but it meant Ira Lee got to see minutes off the bench. Lee played fine, scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds. Still, he too also had four personals, with his fourth coming with seven minutes remaining, and the ‘Cats down nine.
Arizona is already perilously reliant on the backcourt. If the very few legitimate frontcourt players for Arizona keep fouling, a lot of late collapses are probably in the Wildcats’ future, and there’s only a month left to fix this before Arizona tries to get into the NCAA Tournament it can: win the Pac-12 Tournament.