It wasn’t the kind of Senior Night anyone associated with the Arizona Wildcats was hoping for. Arizona fell 69-63 to the Washington Huskies on Saturday night, ending their regular season in disappointing fashion.
The Wildcats (20-11, 10-8) will see Washington again on Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
Our full recap can be found here, while coach Sean Miller’s postgame comments are transcribed below. The full interview can be watched at the bottom.
On the overall performance: ”Our performance tonight was poor. We weren’t ready to play. We didn’t run as fast, jump as high, struggled to get back defensively. Guys lost confidence. We struggled to catch the ball, we struggled to dribble the ball. You play against Washington, it doesn’t matter what attack you have, turnovers is a big stat. In Seattle we had 10, played (almost) the entire game with single digits. Tonight we had 18.”
On Washington’s improved play: “They’ve lost a lot of tough games, but watching them play against Arizona State we knew we were in for a fight. We were in a fight in Seattle when we played them up there.”
On trying to rally in the second half: “This is a game that you’ve got to play from start to finish. Can’t be in that deer-in-the-headlights mode for 20 minutes and all of a sudden snap out of it and expect to win. You’ve got to understand that in March, kids, teams and coaches are playing with a lot at stake. You have to have that competitive fire and spirit. A lot of times that still doesn’t mean you’re going to win, but that’s what’s going to allow you to compete. We didn’t have that.”
On not playing a complete game: “I’m very, very disappointed. I’m not disappointed in our players. I’m the coach, we weren’t ready. We’ve struggled having that Thursday night game, a win, having that day in between and being equally good. It’s bugged us, man, as far back as we were in Anaheim. We’re still that team.”
On Dylan Smith: “I want to commend Dylan Smith. These days if you get hit in the eyebrow you could be out two to four weeks. This kid broke his nose, just got his nose smashed, and he (still) played. In the second half he’s really the reason we stayed in the game, really the reason we had a chance. He shows up. His fight in the second half, just watching him take that hit and respond, it’s quite a testament to being a tough kid.”
On if knowing Arizona was the No. 5 seed impacted the performance: “No. If you have to get guys to be motivated to play in McKale Center, last game of the year, you’ve got a lot bigger problems then seeding or one game.”
On getting a rematch so quickly: “We have to play better. If we play more like the second half the entire game … even with that it’s going to be a great game.”
On using this game as motivation for Wednesday’s rematch: “That’s our only choice. I thought we would be ready for tonight’s game. This is the 11th time that I’ve watched team go out and, I put last year’s team as an outlier based on our circumstances, maybe too many. We haven’t always won that last game but man we fought. There’s no doubt about that and that bleeds into Vegas. So you know for us, we have to play and compete and play hard. You have to take wins, you have to go get them. No one’s just going to sit there and lie down. (Against) Washington State I thought our defense was terrific, outstanding. We keep a chart called kills. A kill in a basketball game is back-to-back-to-back stops. It’s really hard to get in college basketball. If you can go three trips in a row with the other team not scoring and you not fouling. If you get six in a game, we win the game 75, 80 percent of the time. Just that one stat, we had 10 against Washington State. Our effort level tonight was just bad.”
On if Smith has a concussion: “No, but it wouldn’t surprise me. He took one heck of a shot.”
On if he thought Smith would return: “I wasn’t sure if he would be cleared to play but Justin Kokoskie mentioned he was okay. No further damage can be done, I guess.”
On what Christian Koloko did to warrant a technical foul: “I mean (the score) is 55-51, Christian’s maybe one of the nicest kids that I’ve ever met. We’re actually on him to communicate more. It’s just hard for me to believe he said something wrong.”
On if it’s good to play Washington so soon: “I mean, again, I want you to think about this. The second half tonight were 15 of 32 from the field and 7 of 13 from 3. We get to the line a lot and I know we had eight turnovers, which is too many, but the same group went out in the first half went 5 for 25, 1 for 8, and had 10 turnovers. We have to be able to be consistent. A player, group, being able to play really well, not well, both in one game. Man, they look great, next game they don’t. In the first half we couldn’t make a shot, second half we did. It has to even out and this point in the season we’ve seen every defense known to man. We’ve actually attacked zone defenses very well this year. We have. We didn’t tonight. Washington, they do a great job with their zone for sure, but we certainly have it in us to be better.”
On Isaiah Stewart: “He’s such a good player, it’s hard to believe he’s a freshman. The thing about him is things haven’t always going well for his team. And for a guy like him, as big of a reputation as he had in high school, as good of a player he’s been at UW, it’s just so easy for him to just quietly go away. But he’s like a lion, he’s a problem. He’s very, very good physically. Jaden McDaniels is one of those freshmen that is very talented and sometimes it takes a little time to find your way. You could tell he’s really good and really playing with confidence. When those two guys are both playing well, Washington can beat anybody, as evidenced by the fact that they beat Baylor in November.”