Arizona basketball still worthy of white-out
Last Thursday’s “white-out” was a complete success — well, everywhere except for on the court. Nearly all 14,617 fans in attendance dressed in white to watch Arizona lose convincingly to UCLA.
In the aftermath of the disappointing defeat, head coach Sean Miller questioned whether or not they should scrap the whole gimmick during Tuesday’s weekly Pac-12 teleconference. Just a few hours later, Miller came to the weekly press conference prepared with some clever alternatives.
“We’re thinking about having a ‘polka dot-out’ next year and a ‘stripe-out,’” Miller said. “We’re just figuring out the color scheme. We could potentially go with the color of our opponent, throw them off and make them think it’s a home game.”
Even if he wanted to get rid of the promotion, Miller admitted he might not have the clout to do so. But, considering Arizona’s last two white-out games, there might be reason to consider new colors.
Miller’s first career white-out in Tucson was a smashing success. Former Wildcat-great Derrick Williams blocked a Washington shot in the final seconds to seal a crucial victory.
The last two white-outs haven’t been as kind to Miller and company.
Arizona squandered a career-high 28 points from Hill against Washington last season and the Huskies’ Tony Wroten blocked Arizona’s Josiah Turner on a game-tying layup.
Against UCLA, the Wildcats’ only lead of the game was 1-0, and they never got within four points during the final 38:14 of the game.
“[A loss is] disappointing when you have an incredible crowd, like we have, and then every one of them is wearing white, and it’s a nationally televised game against an incredible program and a very good team in UCLA,” Miller said.
“When you lose that, it’s not something you easily forget.”
Miller said he doesn’t want to end the white-out tradition because he knows the fans love it so much. The Wildcats just haven’t enjoyed the last two results.
But as he pointed out, the largest crowd in the McKale Center all season wasn’t to blame for the loss.
“The reason we lost wasn’t because of our great crowd,” Miller said. “It was because we played poorly.”
New minutes for York?
Arizona’s freshman guard Gabe York has seen limited court action this season, at least till now.
After seeing his first minutes of conference play in Saturday’s 74-50 victory over USC, head coach Sean Miller said it might be time for York to become a bigger part of the rotation.
“I could see him being more of a part of what we do from this point on,” Miller said, “as long as he excels when he gets the opportunity and continues to practice the way he’s been.”
York’s offensive potential has never been in question. He’s scored 30 points this year in just 58 minutes of play, a better point-per-minute rate than any of the Wildcats’ main rotation players. He’s also made an impressive 45.8 percent of his shots despite entering the game cold and not seeing enough time to enter a rhythm.
The problem, though, was his defensive ability. It finally seems like York has turned the corner in that regard as well.
“I’m just trying to pride myself in practice on defense and working as hard as I can to try and get as many minutes as possible,” York said.
According to the freshman, Miller told him that before he’d see significant playing time, the coach would have to trust York’s defense. Since he is undersized (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) and he never really focused on his defensive play in high school, the learning curve was steep.
Senior Solomon Hill said the biggest thing a young player has to learn defensively is not to overcommit. But Hill didn’t stop there. He rattled off several more keys needed to play well on the defensive end — boxing out, being aware and keeping hands high.
“It’s a lot to really take in [during] your first year,” Hill said.
And the waiting game isn’t always easy, especially when York has played in fewer than half of Arizona’s games this season. But Miller has praised York all season for his ability to practice hard and stay focused without consistent game action.
“The hardest thing for a freshman is to not play at all, and he’s handled it well,” Miller said.
“He’s continued to practice, he’s continued to stay involved, and he’s talented. About two weeks ago, you could start to sense that he’s continued to get better.”
It’s still not a guarantee York will get an increased role, as the Wildcats already play eight deep and have yet to see any injuries. But there is a chance he might play more.
For a player sitting at the end of the bench, that’s always a welcome sign.
WHEN: Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. PST
WHERE: Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Wash.
TV: ESPN (Bill Walton/Dave Pasch)