It came as no surprise that Sean Miller was in a bad mood after the Arizona Wildcats lost 63-61 at home to Oregon on Saturday, their sixth consecutive loss to the Ducks and third by a combined four points.
Our game recap, which notes Arizona was outrebounded for the first time this season and took a season-low 11 free throw attempts, can be found here. Below is what Miller had to say in what was his most terse postgame press conference of 2020-21:
On the rebounding disadvantage: “They beat us up on the glass. They had 38 rebounds to our 30, they had 12 second shots. When you have a strength as a team, you have to be able to bring that strength to the biggest games, and in key moments. Some of the key moments were why we got down 11-2 at home, because they just were more physical, they got second shots, their guards got them. And then down the second half, it’s tough enough to defend and make them miss the first time. And when they did, they just got too many second shots. When you get out rebounded 38-30, and we’re the best rebounding team in the Pac-12 ... that’s to their credit and it’s not our credit.
“They had plenty of second chance points, second chance opportunities, they kept possessions alive. When you when you’re in these types of games, you have to finish but you also have to bring your identity to the game. You let a team come in at McKale center, throw you out of the way, go get the ball, point guard, two-guard, 5-10 guard, 6-9 player, they wanted the ball. And to their credit, and to their program’s credit, their coach and their staff’s credit, they were just the more physical, nasty or tougher team. It’s like, hey, ‘if we don’t go get these second shots, we’re not gonna win,’ and they went and got them. And that’s clearly to Oregon’s credit. That was, in my opinion, the difference of the game because we played 40 minutes against Oregon and had six turnovers.”
On the play call for the final shot attempt: “The first option was we were hoping to maybe get Azuolas (Tubelis) over the top. With 1.1 seconds left, obviously you’re limited. To have him running, jumping off his right leg as a left-handed player, Terrell Brown inbounding the ball over the top there, especially if he has the size. That was kind of the first look. Kerr is our best screener, he just has a good feel for the screen. We kind of like fake cut and then he screened in, and he did a good job, he popped out caught it, and I believe he got a shot to win it but unfortunately missed it. But it was contested.”
On Oregon’s game-winning 3: “You know, the problem with Chris Duarte’s shot in front of their bench, it wasn’t contested. He was wide open. And when you’re in the final minutes of games, you can always live with a challenged, contested shot. It’s kind of a head-scratching moment, even though they ball fake and move and it was team play you want to contest that. He makes a contested shot, which he probably would have, that’s fine, but you can’t be wide open. And he was.”
On why Arizona struggles late in close games: “It’s me. I have to do a better job. But there’s no excuse. You’ve got to win close games. Every losing team has their story that you lose this one by one point, lose this one by two points. There’s a reason you lose. It’s because you’re getting your ass kicked.”
On Duarte hitting the 3 after being 3 of 13 in the game before that: “Pros, guys that are gonna play in the NBA, they rise up, they make that shot, and that’s what he did. He’s a great player, he’s very underrated and deserves a lot of credit. Obviously Oregon, because of COVID, has going through a lot of different things this season, but Duarte is one heck of a basketball player. You can make the case, especially if Oregon catches fire, that he can be a candidate for the Pac-12 Player of the Year. I mean, he’s that good.”
On if there’s any consolation in knowing Oregon is starting to hit its stride: “No, there is no big picture.”
On why Oregon has won six in a row over Arizona: “They have a great coach. I wish I could do a better job, obviously six in a row, we’d like to get one. And that’s just what happens when you lose.”
On Kriisa and Tubelis combining for 32 points on 11-of-20 shooting: “I thought Kerr played really well, and Azuolas, he had his moments.”