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Sean Miller re-explains why Max Hazzard was benched in Arizona’s loss at ASU

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NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It turns out it wasn’t one play that got Max Hazzard benched in the second half of Saturday’s loss at ASU, it was several.

After the game, Arizona coach Sean Miller had said it was poor clock management that put Hazzard on the pine. Arizona called a timeout with 17 seconds left in the first half, hoping to draw up a play so that it could build on its 15-point lead or, at the very least, maintain it.

But Hazzard, a little too overzealous, drove to the cup with eight seconds left, forcing up an errant shot. The Sun Devils scooped up the rebound and ran for a layup in transition, cutting Arizona’s lead to 43-30 at the break.

It was the final straw for the senior guard. That play capped a 6-0 run for the Sun Devils, Hazzard being at the forefront of it all, Miller said.

“He gave a straight line drive for an and-one, got the ball taken from him, and the ball went down and scored,” Miller said Tuesday at his weekly presser. “And then on that last play, what we wanted to do is just simply take the last shot. Arizona State elected to trap. Jemarl Baker did a really good job of getting rid of the ball, but the direction is just really clear. ... And at some point, you have to do what what we’re supposed to, and I didn’t think it was in our best interest to play him at all in the second half.”

Yes, even though the Wildcats only shot 28 percent in the period and could have used Hazzard’s 3-point shooting when their offense cratered down the stretch.

“Performance is important,” Miller said. “There’s a number of guys in the Arizona State game that didn’t play well. I didn’t coach well. We could have done a lot of different things. But that happens. We’re not asking for perfection. But you can’t in a three-minute window give up a three-point play, (get the) ball taken on a full court drive, ignore the coach, give up a layup. For us there has to be consequences.”

Miller later noted that Hazzard also took a transition 3 in the first half that “could have been the worst shot that I’ve ever seen taken in a Pac-12 game.”

“And it wasn’t as if he was hot,” Miller said. “Playing in McKale, you’re up 15, just hit back to back 3s, everybody understands that I just took a shot in transition, that’s a great shot. ... But to take a shot on the road when your team’s playing well and from the right wing like a running one-hander, you add that in, that’s not gonna work. Not playing for me.”

Hazzard had been on a roll entering the ASU game, making nine of his last 16 3-pointers, so when Miller was asked if his rough night could affect his playing time moving forward he said it “depends how he plays” and that “I don’t really think it’s a big deal. It happens all the time.”

When asked how Hazzard has responded in practice, Miller said: “He put his stuff on, walked out there, participated in film, did every drill, practiced hard, and we’re moving on.”