BASKETBALL

UA basketball: Freshmen, coach need to step up, Miller says

2012-03-07T00:01:00Z 2013-09-17T16:17:21Z UA basketball: Freshmen, coach need to step up, Miller saysBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 07, 2012 12:01 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats have backed themselves into a corner this week, and nobody is likely casting a sour look at the team's top three seniors.

Nor at junior Solomon Hill, a consistent force all season who coach Sean Miller said Tuesday was "almost our team's best player."

UA seniors Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Jesse Perry joined Hill with typically productive efforts Sunday at ASU, but the Wildcats suffered a costly 87-80 loss that made it much more likely they will have to win this week's Pac-12 tournament to reach the NCAA tournament.

Miller said the Wildcats need more from freshman starting guards Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner, who both struggled Sunday at ASU, and he also prodded one other person for more production.

Himself.

"I'm disappointed (where) we are right now," Miller said. "There's a new season beginning, so our objective is to win three games in three days. But I think when you're the head coach at Arizona, it's about winning or competing for a regular-season championship, it's about being part of the NCAA tournament and it's about having a team that can advance in the NCAA tournament - like we did last year.

"I can come up with a lot of reasons we're not at that point right now, but that's my job. That's our staff's job. And if we don't do it, it's disappointing."

Without forward Kevin Parrom, who has been out since Jan. 28 with a broken foot, and with freshman guard Jordin Mayes still a limited factor since returning from his foot stress fracture, the Wildcats received 90 percent of their scoring from the four contributing upperclassmen on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Johnson had five points on 1-for-5 shooting, with four turnovers and two assists, and Turner had three points on 1-for-6 shooting and three turnovers. UA's other freshman, forward Angelo Chol was scoreless with no rebounds in seven minutes.

"They have to be consistent," Miller said of the three freshmen. "The bigger the game, the bigger the stage; sometimes freshmen in their first time through are different in their personality. We need those guys to play together, play hard and stay on course, to take care of the basketball and be solid, be consistent throughout those 40 minutes. That's really important for us to have any success."

UA players were not available for comment Tuesday, but Miller said he believed their recent experience under pressure - "it's like we've been in elimination games for about a month," he said - could make a difference the rest of the way.

"They did not play well in that (ASU) game, that's for sure," Miller said. "But they've played well in a lot of other games, maybe not as a group, but one or two of them have. All of us entering L.A., you need all your players to play well. You need your team to be playing at a very high level. None of us have that room for error, where we can have a bad night with two or three or four players."

Miller doesn't need to worry much about the older players, saying the one luxury the Wildcats have is that they are all "really solid in their roles." Especially Fogg, who played his way on to the all-conference first team over the past month and also made the five-man all-defensive team.

"I knew he was going to make the all-defensive team," Miller said about the guard. "To me he's in the upper tier of that group of five. His impact in games is significant. When you look at Kyle, his ability level and how hard he's worked, you have a great source of pride."

Miller also cited the late-season work of Lavender (50 percent three-point shooting in conference play) as well as the season-long disadvantage Jesse Perry has dealt with as a 6-foot-7-inch "center."

While Fogg and Hill were named to the 10-man all-conference first team, Perry was an honorable-mention pick. But Miller said Perry more than fulfilled the coach's hopes when he recruited the junior college player.

"If you would have told me (Perry) would start on an Elite Eight team and be honorable mention this year…" Miller said he would have been happy. "He played center for every one of our conference games. I don't know if we could ask any more of Jesse."

In essence, Miller said the upperclassmen have done what they were supposed to do for the Wildcats.

Now Miller is hoping the rest of the players and coaches can do the same for them.

"The job of a coach and a coaching staff is to take a senior class further than a lot of people thought they could go, and we've not done that to this point," Miller said. "I hope that we can look back here in the next couple of weeks and feel that way.

"It'll all depend on where we go from here. For us to be 21-10 and 12-6 (in Pac-12 play), we've had a lot of great moments, but this is the University of Arizona. Being 21-10, I mean, I'm not walking down the street feeling like we've accomplished a great deal. The bar here is extremely high, and we're not going to lower it for any other reason."

Rim shots

• Miller is bracing for the possibility UA associate head coach James Whitford could become a candidate to replace retiring head coach Charlie Coles at Miami (Ohio), where Whitford worked on the staff for 11 seasons. "I don't know where James stands with that," Miller said. "But whether it's at Miami or any other place, I can't imagine anyone being more prepared with more experience, being a better person, and more ready to be a head coach than James Whitford."

• Fogg was named all-district Tuesday by the United States Basketball Writers Association.

Up next

• What: Arizona vs. UCLA-USC winner

• When: 3:30 p.m. Thursday

• TV; radio: FSAZ; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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