Here are some takeaways from the loss.
Preparation is essential, particularly on defense
John Wooden’s idiom that failing to prepare is a preparation for failure may be as old as the Gill Coliseum bench seating, but it still applies to basketball today. Arizona entered Sunday without a clear game plan and it resulted in the ugliest loss of the season.
There was no question which Oregon State players Arizona needed to contain – Tres Tinkle and Ethan Thompson – yet the Wildcats had no answer for either one.
Tinkle and Thompson combined for 38 points and 15 assists on the night and together manufactured most of a 9-2 scoring run in the middle of the second half.
“We just didn’t come out ready, and they were the more ready team,” said Zeke Nnaji. “That’s why the result is how it is.”
Arizona was caught off guard by OSU’s perimeter shooting, as Tinkle made a trio of 3-pointers while Ethan Thompson and Alfred Hollins added two apiece.
The Beavers also got fouled on a pair 3-pointers. OSU made 20-22 free throws for the game.
“We just we had no answers for their ability on offense they kept it really simple,” said Sean Miller. “I think the first 10-15 seconds of the possession they just ran kind of like false motion to be deliberate.”
The fact that the Beavers kept repeating the same set plays with continued success suggests that Arizona spent little time practicing how to defend such plays.
Whatever adjustments Miller made in-game or during half time didn’t stick.
“They were well coached,” said Nnaji. “There’s a lot of great players and they can all shoot the ball really well, and we didn’t defend as well as we were capable of, and that just ended up hurting us.”
Rebounding struggles are costing Arizona points on both sides of the court
After Arizona lost to Oregon on Thursday night, Sean Miller made an emphasis on the importance of grabbing rebounds and loose balls.
The Wildcats didn’t show much improvement in that area on Sunday, and it cost them.
Although Arizona outscored OSU 14-5 on second chance points, the Wildcats gave up seven offense rebounds and were outrebounded 31-28 on the night.
The group’s inability to cleanly come with rebounds, especially on the defensive side, interfered with their offensive sets.
“Defense and offense are connected. We may not have gotten shots, I thought sometimes we got pretty good shots, but rebounding is so hard for our team,” said Miller. “In the second half, we did a better job early on but just our ability to get second shots when we miss, and being able to get defensive rebounds, it’s really hard for us. It’s been hard from day one and now that we’re in conference play, it’s a big, big deal.”
Miller’s frustrations with the group’s rebounding efforts is tied to the fact that only a week ago Arizona seemed to be turning the corner when it came to cleaning up the glass.
The Wildcats outrebounded Arizona State by a 49-35 margin.
Sunday was a much different story.
“I think the one player tonight who really had a good solid game, at least rebounding the ball and scoring, was Zeke,” Miller said. “At halftime, we had three players who had a single rebound or more. Three. I’ve never seen that. So, rebounding right now is a real problem, it’s something we’re trying to solve but as you can see we’re having a hard time.”
Miller wasn’t ready to make a major change in the front court – yet
Following Chase Jeter’s poor outing against Oregon on Thursday, it appeared that Miller was considering shaking up playing time down low.
Jeter played about 18 minutes on Sunday, collecting eight points and just one rebound. Stone Gettings saw 15 minutes of action but never took a shot.
Ira Lee didn’t see action for most of the first half, while Christian Koloko found himself generally uninvolved as well.
For what it’s worth, Koloko was the only Wildcat with a positive +/- point differential (3).
When asked why Lee in particular didn’t receive more minutes against the Beavers, Miller was quick to not draw too many conclusions.
“We’re trying to find ourselves,” said Miller. “One thing about Oregon State, they play Tres Tinkle at the 4, they’re small. So they have him and then they have three guards, so you have to either be able to take advantage of that inside and rebounding, and if you can’t then you try to match up with them. And I think in many ways tonight we were caught in between.”
Opposing versatile forwards have proven to be an Achilles Heel for the Wildcats, who also struggled to contain Gonzaga’s Filip Petrusev and Killian Tillie.
Miller is as frustrated as ever with Pac-12 refereeing
After Arizona’s loss to Oregon, Miller conducted his postgame radio show and then met Dave Heeke in the hallway outside the team locker room.
Miller expressed to Heeke his frustrations with the game’s officiating using language that would register as PG-13.
Perhaps it was inevitable that the lid would come off on Sunday given how angry Miller had been a few days prior.
It finally happened when four minutes into the second half, Nico Mannion made a hard drive to the lane and was blocked by Thompson.
That led to an OSU fast break bucket and a four-point swing. Instead of Arizona leading 43-37, the Beavers cut the lead to 41-39.
Miller was soon called for a technical and continued to argue with the refs throughout the TV timeout.
“I thought Nico got fouled and they disagreed,” said Miller.
Asked whether the subsequent technical foul free throws contributed to OSU’s momentum the rest of the half, Miller answered bluntly: “Could have been.”
What’s sure is this: there’s been no love lost between Miller and the Pac-12 refs.