Sean Miller's even-keeled approach to his first season at Arizona may be having its biggest test yet.
On Monday, two days after the Arizona basketball coach called a home loss to Oregon State the "rock bottom" of his 23 years in college basketball, Miller scheduled two practices - the first at 6 a.m. - to prepare for Arizona State on Sunday.
On Tuesday, during the weekly Pac-10 teleconference call, he reiterated his frustration over the Wildcats' lack of toughness, saying they "caved in" against the Beavers' maddening zone defense and methodical offense.
"One of the things I said after our game was that Oregon State deserved to win," Miller said. "Their offense was extremely patient. They took a lot of shots near the end of the clock. You could see the wearing effect on our team, in particular, with some of our young players. It's almost as if the mentality we took was, 'You mean to tell me we've got to stay in this stance so long? That's not fair.'
"That's where really to me where my frustration and disappointment (came from). … You have to have some discipline, some toughness and understand the game's going to be played a little differently. And you're going to have that wherewithal to stay with it for 40 minutes, knowing that a lot of things are going to happen at the end of the clock.
"My team caved in a big way in that area. (Against OSU) at times you're baited into taking threes. If you take quick shots and then you go back on defense … your defense starts to work against your offense and then your offense starts to work against your defense and it becomes kind of a frustrating experience."
At the same time, Miller said Arizona has found a way "to respond after a tough loss, a road loss, a tough home loss."
"Sometimes we balance that out with an equally big win. Really, that's been our season," he said. "I don't look necessarily at this week having any more desperation attached to it than when we lost our first game in Maui in November."
Miller's young team faced a daunting start at the Maui Invitational, and he stressed again the long-term nature of his challenge Tuesday when asked about the time needed to rebuild teams and whether the Pac-10's coaching changes have hurt the league.
"When we went to Maui, I can remember thinking how awkward it was for me and the staff to travel with our team," Miller said. "You almost have the sense … you don't know anybody.
"I know that may sound awkward, but when you consider … the time you spend in September away from your team recruiting, especially if you're a new staff, and then you start (practicing) in October, what I'm saying really holds true."
Miller believes it takes two years for a team to really mesh, and he recalled that when he took Xavier to the Sweet 16 last season, "I felt like I had known those guys for 10 years."
"That was my eighth year there," Miller said. "That was a team that was old. It takes some time, and I'm sure our conference is experiencing some of that."
• The mother of Top 10 guard Josh Selby, Maeshon Witherspoon, said via text message Tuesday that her son has narrowed his finalists to Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky and UConn. Selby visited UA for its Jan. 10 Washington game and has also visited Kansas, with trips planned to UConn and Kentucky within the next three weeks.
• ASU has only lost twice (to Cal and Washington) since the Wildcats beat them by 19 on Jan. 23 in Tempe, but Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek indicated that doesn't mean much in the rematch Sunday. "At our place Arizona was vastly superior, and we're going to have to be much better to compete," Sendek said.
• What: Arizona State at Arizona
• When: 3:30 p.m., Sunday
• TV: FSAZ
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)