The Wildcats (17-15) came storming back from a double-digit lead to tie the game going into halftime, but it looked like Arizona just ran out of offensive steam in the second half, as USC (16-16) once again stormed out to another double-digit deficit, but this time the Wildcats had no answer.
Ryan Luther finished off his college career with a team-high 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting, while freshman Brandon Williams finished the game with 12 points, with eight of those coming from the charity stripe.
Here is what Arizona head basketball coach Sean Miller had to say in postgame press conference.
Miller on USC...
“So first of all, USC, I thought they did an outstanding job in the second half. They’re very, very talented inside with Bennie Boatwright and (Nick) Rakocevic. Those two guys complement each other well. It’s a heck of a one-two punch for anybody that plays them.
“The fact that we were tied at the half, we struggled to score the first ten minutes of the second half, that speaks for itself, and dug ourselves a hole. Obviously they were the much better team, in particular in the second half.”
Miller on his team..
“I’m incredibly proud of the team that we have right now at Arizona, the one that our season just ended. Guys like Ira (Lee) and Brandon, you know, it’s not easy to play through a lot of adversity and obstacles. And that adversity and those obstacles came in a lot of different forms. I’ve never questioned the togetherness of this group. I’ve never questioned the effort.
“Sometimes you try to get them to play as hard as they possibly can, because we don’t have that room for error, if we don’t. But we ended about where I thought we would. 17 and 15, you’re hoping maybe for a couple more. And if we were healthier, maybe that would have came. But we were 4-11 down the stretch.
“We were much better earlier in the year. And that happens over time. The depth of your team is always challenged in college basketball, and that was our Achilles’ heel. Any bad play, we go through stretches where we don’t make shots, an injury to Brandon or Chase (Jeter), it really derailed us. We weren’t really able ever at any point in the season to overcome that. But in terms of these guys’ intentions, showing up every day and the 90-plus practices and trying to do the best that they could, at the end that’s really what you judge yourself on. And in a lot of ways these guys and our team this year did that.”
Miller on if this was his last game at Arizona..
“No, and I’m not going to comment on that”
Miller on the season as a whole..
“You know, when you’re going through the season, you really take the next day as the only thing that matters. The practice that you’re in is the only thing that means anything. The word “process” is used a lot in sports, but it’s true. If you continually react to a game, a bad play, you know, you’re not able to have a consistent environment.
“Like I said, establishing our level of play as far back as Maui, I thought we were in a very challenging environment, a difficult field, and survived with good play and a big win over Iowa State. You judge us on our non-conference season, 9-4, maybe a game at Alabama could have gone either way, but we also won a couple that could have gone either way. The Pac-12, as the Pac-12 season presented itself and wore on, you know, it’s just death by inches.
“The deepest teams, the most experienced teams, the more physical teams, they can overcome the obstacles that they’re hit with. And I thought in particular this year losing Brandon for the duration that he missed, and Chase kind of going in and out, I’m not saying that we were going to be great, but our room for error was so slight that it really stole our confidence to some degree and didn’t allow us to be maybe the best overall team that we could have been.
“Again, if you go back as far as April or March of last year, I think we all kind of looked at it and said we’ll see who we have, and thank goodness all the guys returned and someone like Brandon joined us late. And I think with what we did in the spring really gave us a chance. And you can only judge your team on their togetherness, their effort and what you see out of them every day. And I don’t know if I’ve ever sounded different, and I won’t now. In many ways we did the very, very best that we could.”