It’s never a good feeling blowing a 22-point lead, particularly on the road against an in-state rival. You could tell as such on the faces of every Arizona player as the walked out of the locker room following Saturday night’s 66-65 loss at ASU, marking the Wildcats’ fifth straight true road loss.
Our full recap can be found here, while coach Sean Miller’s measured, but pointed postgame thoughts can be found below.
On blowing a 22-point lead: “You have to make plays, you have to make layups, you have to make open shots, you have to make free throws. You can’t turn the ball over down the stretch, got to be able to get a shot at the basket. You don’t get rewarded for playing well for part of the game, you have to play well for the entire game. Some of playing well isn’t making the shot, it’s blocking the shot, getting the rebound.
“We’re not a confident group, we really aren’t. It’s about performance. You have to grade our team, me, as a coach, you have to grade our team on how we do, not how we’re supposed to be. I wish I could help our guys break through. I’m the coach, it really starts with me. I’m going to try even harder than I am to give those guys as much confidence as I can and see if we can break through.”
On turning it over a season-high 18 times: “I give a lot of credit to Arizona State, they were a hungry team. Their defense … sped us up and created 18 turnovers. Some of our turnovers, you have to give credit to our opponent. And some of the turnovers, I think our starters had 15 of the 18. That’s really hard to overcome.”
On the rebounding: “For most of the game, our rebounding was in place. For most of the first half and maybe for a small portion of the second half. And although we outrebounded them 43-40, they were clearly the more aggressive, hungrier team. We had a number of balls go through our hands, we had block outs that we missed. They got those loose balls, those 50-50 balls. And that’s really plagued our team from the first game until now. When you’re on the road your margin of error certainly disappears.”
On the impact of Nico Mannion only playing 25 minutes because of foul trouble: “Obviously Nico is an important part of our team, and him getting two fouls there, that wasn’t good for us. But I think the other part of it is you have to give a lot of credit to Remy Martin. He’s a heck of a player. He does it on offense, he does it on defense. He does it game in and game out. He’s got great confidence in himself, I thought he was the difference between the two teams tonight. He’s one of the best guards in the conference, he’s one of the best guards in college basketball.”
On playing on the road: “I mean, you can paint a bad picture. We’re going to the Pacific Northwest (to face Washington and Washington State) and we haven’t won on the road, and we got two more. I don’t have anything positive to say that.”
On Max Hazzard not playing in the second half: “I lost confidence right at the end of the first half. When it’s your ball at the end of the half, it doesn’t matter where the game is played, you want to take the last shot. You don’t want to jump into somebody with 13 seconds left. It’s like, which team are you playing for? You take the last shot, that’s discipline. That’s how you win basketball games.
“For us, we have to go with the guys that are going to play that way.”
On defending ASU’s game-winning score: “That could have been my fault on the last play. We went small, and when you go small you have an opportunity to switch pick and rolls so you don’t get exposed. We kept Zeke in, and Zeke’s pretty mobile, but at the end it didn’t matter, they drove the ball and hit a layup.
“(Alonzo) Verge didn’t have to make the last shot. He drove it and he scored the ball. We didn’t make the play.”
On defensive breakdowns after a strong start: “It’s not as easy to jumping, or hedging … in the second half. It takes a lot of toughness. It’s like I’m a defensive lineman and I’m rushing the quarterback. It’s not easy in the second half to keep rushing the quarterback, you have to have toughness and great wherewithal. When you stop doing that, certainly the (opponent’s) offense functions better.
“Our defense was very, very good in the first half on a lot of possessions. Our defense wasn’t nearly as good in the second half. If you watch our team play, I would say that’s similar to a lot of different games we’ve played this year. It’s called sustained effort. Not 16 (minutes), not one half, not at the end or the beginning, but throughout.”
On Chase Jeter warming up but not playing: “He’s not quite ready. He’s learning how to practice right now. I would say he’s practiced maybe 1 ½ days.”