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Turnovers mounting as Arizona men’s basketball heads out for extended road trip

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-turnovers-pac12-road-trip-stanford-cardinal-2022-bennedict-mathurin Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The win-loss record makes it seem like Arizona is almost unbeatable, but the Wildcats have had at least one notable flaw emerge of late, one that could lead to bad things ahead of a big game road trip.

The UA is averaging 13.8 turnovers per game, on pace for its most since the 2009-10 season, and its turnover rate—the percent of offensive possessions that end in a giveaway—is at 18.2 percent, its worst since 2015-16. That’s not horrible from a national standpoint, but the last four games have all been over 21 percent.

The Wildcats’ turnover rate in Pac-12 play is 21.7 percent, second-worst in the league. Only its opponent on Thursday, Stanford, turns it over more often in conference games.

With the UA about to embark on a stretch of three road games in six days, cleaning up how it takes care of the ball has become a major point of emphasis. No extra practice time is being to devoted to this, though, coach Tommy Lloyd said, because it’s not a matter of anything from a schematic standpoint.

“The guys need to make better decisions, that’s kind of what it comes down to,” he said. “We haven’t changed how we’re playing over earlier in year, when we weren’t struggling to turn the ball over as much. Maybe it’s a change in competition a little bit, but I think a lot of it’s just decision making. You just got to make good decisions.”

As the team that plays the fastest tempo in the country, some bad passes and mishandled feeds come with the territory, especially with the UA also leading Division I in assists per game at 21.9. Yet Lloyd and leading scorer Bennedict Mathurin both say a good number of the miscues are coming from Arizona trying to make extraordinary passes rather than just really good ones.

“I reminded our guys yesterday, at the end of the year we’re gonna able to put together a heck of a highlight film,” Lloyd said. “We’ve got enough highlights. So we don’t need to be trying harder to add highlights to this, because a lot of these highlights are going end up on the cutting floor. We don’t need to try hard to get highlights. We just need to score baskets and do things that impact winning. That’s been the message.”

Added Mathurin: “We’ve got a lot of lobs or alley oops or passes that we don’t need. I just feel like if we keep it simple, just make the right play every single time, we’re going to be able to decrease our number of turnovers.”

Lloyd said “quick, simple decisions” that Arizona can stack up are much better for the overall goal of winning games.

“We don’t have hard, fast rules on turning down this pass, turning down that pass, but as we get into it here, and winning becomes more important and more difficult to do, they need to understand that their decisions contribute to that,” Lloyd said. “ I always remind our guys, we don’t need perfect plays. We just need to accumulate a bunch of simple plays. I’m not looking for perfect decisions. I’m just looking for a bunch of simple decisions that add up over the course of time. Usually, if you make more good, simple decisions than your opponent, you have a good chance of winning.”