LOS ANGELES – The Arizona Wildcats moved up their bus departure for practice about 30 minutes today, figuring the traffic would take them a full hour to make a 15-mile drive to Pauley Pavilion, but that was about the only thing that changed.
Even after an 89-78 loss at USC, Arizona’s third loss in its past six games, coach Sean Miller said the two days in between games have been the same as always.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a heightened sense of urgency. The Wildcats know they can’t allow anyone to shoot 61 percent again, as USC did on Wednesday.
“We did not play well against USC and I’ll take the responsibility for that,” Miller told the Star today before UA’s practice. “Anytime a team shoots the percentage they shot late in the season, it’s something that is bothersome. We’re addressing it and hopefully when you continue to watch us we have kind of a lesson learned from this point on, that we can get our defense intact. That’s something that’s been good to us and it’s a shame that we would lose it now.”
Miller said the Wildcats did not overlook USC as much as they simply did not execute well defensively.
“They gained confidence throughout the game, then all of a sudden they became a team that couldn’t miss,” Miller said. “We had a lot to do with it. If you think about the percentages they shot…. Clearly we could have played harder. We could have been more organized. Those are all things we’re working to address.”
Miller said the Bruins had a “great performance” in their overtime win over ASU on Wednesday and praised their continued improvement, while noting that the Wildcats must do a better job of disrupting point guard Larry Drew II, who had nine assists and two turnovers in UCLA’s 84-73 win over Arizona on Jan. 24 at McKale Center.
“I thought the biggest stat in the game at McKale – everyone will talk about our slow start and rightly so -- but part of the story was really just our turnovers that led to points.”
UCLA scored 14 fast-break points and 21 off turnovers on Jan. 24, while UA had 17 points off turnovers.
UCLA coach Ben Howland said on his conference call this afternoon that forward/center Travis Wear (foot) is probable for Saturday and Shabazz Muhammad (ankle) will play.
“Travis went through our walk-through today, so I’m encouraged by that,” Howland said. “Shabazz’s sprain swelled up more than we anticipated. He was out there gingerly. But he will play.”