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Crazy as it sounds, Arizona’s offense often at its best when giving it away

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-oregon-ducks-preview-turnovers-offense-shooting-efficiency-pac12 Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona got its offense back on track in Thursday night’s win at Oregon State, posting some of its best numbers in weeks.

“It felt back to normal,” coach Tommy Lloyd said on his postgame radio show. “We were hunting shots and were’t worried about what they were doing. it was a good balance of letting it rip from outside and attacking inside.”

The Wildcats shot 52.5 percent, a major increase from the previous three games when they were below 38 percent against ASU, Washington and Washington State, and the 26 assists were tied for the second-most all season after registering a season-low nine dimes in the loss to WSU.

But while those numbers were back to what we’ve come to expect from the UA, so too was one much less welcome figure: turnovers.

Arizona gave it away 17 times to the Beavers, its most since a 19-turnover game against San Diego State in the Maui Invitational. OSU converted those 17 takeaways, which included 10 steals, into 17 points.

The UA’s turnover rate on Thursday was 23.2 percent, highest since the SDSU game and fourth-highest on the season. Overall, Arizona’s TO rate (18.7 percent) ranks 160th out of 363 Division I teams, while opponents’ steal percentage (11.3) is in the bottom 40 nationally.

Taking better care of the ball is always a priority for every team. But in Arizona’s case, it may be impossible with the style it wants to play on offense. In fact, when the Wildcats keep the turnover numbers down that often correlates to a bad offensive game overall.

And the data backs up this assertion.

The UA ranks fourth in Division I in adjusted offensive efficiency, per, at 118.2. It had been No. 1 until the 3-game rut in which it averaged 66.7 points and shot 35.2 percent from the field (24.3 percent from 3).

One thing Arizona did not do during that rut was turn the ball over. It averaged 10.7 turnovers per game, and the turnover rate in each contest was at or below the season average.

The 74-61 loss to Washington State? Arizona had only eight turnovers, second-fewest on the season, and its TO rate (12.2 percent) was also second-lowest, yet it had its second-worst offensive efficiency (93.2), worst effective field goal percentage (34.9) and second-lowest 2-point field goal accuracy (42.1).

The Utah loss in December echoed those poor shooting and efficiency numbers, as well as the low TO count (12). And while Arizona has won games where its shot poorly or had low efficiency, the margin of victory in those contests has also been lower … as have the turnover numbers.

Flip over to the UA’s best offensive performances, and as the scoring, shooting and efficiency numbers go up so does the turnover tally. Arizona is 6-0 in games where it has turned it over on more than 20 percent of possessions, winning those games by an average of 20 points, while the average margin of victory in six games (all wins) with a turnover rate between 17-19.6 percent is 19 points.

In the six games with a turnover rate of 15.6 percent or below: a 4-2 record with an average margin of victory of 1.7 points.

It certainly can be frustrating seeing Kerr Kriisa or Courtney Ramey make a bad pass, and seven of their combined nine turnovers at OSU were of that ilk. But they also combined for 18 of Arizona’s 26 assists, and for the season have 150 assists against 76 turnovers.

The UA, as a team, has a 1.44 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks 28th nationally. In its “attack mode” style of offense, one that’s looking to move the ball up the court quickly and get a score early in the shot clock, miscues are bound to happen. When it slows down and loses that aggressiveness, the giveaways go down but so too does the efficiency.

The key isn’t as much eliminating those mistakes but minimizing their damage. OSU got 17 points off Arizona’s 17 turnovers, accounting for about 23 percent of its points, and for the season opponents are getting 15.3 points per game off turnovers (21 percent).

The Wildcats get 14.2 points per game off opponent turnovers, which is only 16.5 percent of their scoring. In other words, Arizona isn’t reliant on forcing turnovers to create offense, as shows only 5.4 percent of its initial shot attempts come after a steal compared to 23.6 percent in the first 10 seconds after a defensive rebound.