Wildcats basketball dejected over loss to USC
LOS ANGELES — Solomon Hill stood outside the visiting locker room, leaning up against a wall as he was surrounded by eight or nine reporters.
After a 89-78 loss to USC on Wednesday night, he was more reflective than dejected.
Hill was shoeless, and his NBA crew socks were a stern reminder of just how little time is left in his Arizona career.
He did all he could on Wednesday night, but it’s no secret that the Wildcats as a whole looked lazy, particularly on defense.
Two years ago, Arizona was swept by UCLA and USC on the same Southern California road trip.
That team was down, but not out. It used that feeling of dejection, of disappointment, and it bounced back. It fought to win the Pac-12 regular season title and made it to the Elite Eight.
Derrick Williams, who was in the crowd on Wednesday, was the star of that squad, but the Wildcats don’t have a star of that caliber, so it remains to be seen how this squad will bounce back.
“It’s kind of hard to explain to the guys the feeling of winning a Pac-10 or Pac-12 championship,” said Hill, who had 21 points and six assists against the Trojans. “Even in the situation where we lost two in L.A. before, we finished strong and we won the Pac-10. Cutting those nets and celebrating in front of your crowd, having to see the setup where we play our last game at home; they don’t understand the situation that we were in. And it’s kind of hard to just tell them.”
The post-game mood was the most depressive the Wildcats have expressed all season.
Grant Jerrett and Kevin Parrom were noticeably upset, and Sean Miller certainly didn’t pull any punches when talking about the Wildcats’ struggles.
“I hate losing, man,” Parrom said. “I hate losing. I just hate losing. Especially being like this, with seniors like me and Solomon.”
Hill’s career is winding down, Parrom’s career is winding down, and so is Mark Lyons’.
Playing “every game like it’s their last” applies to them more than Jerrett or Kaleb Tarczewski or Brandon Ashley, or even Nick Johnson, a sophomore who has been a leader for these Wildcats but had maybe his worst game at the UA against USC.
It was collectively a lackluster effort, but Hill and Parrom were its saving graces.
They showed effort and grit and a yearning for a W.
The rest of the team didn’t, though, and it hurt them.
Overall, this has been Miller’s best defensive team at Arizona, he said. And when this offense is clicking with this defense, it can be magical.
“But recently,” Miller said, “this is the worst defensive team that I have ever coached.”
For much of the season, USC (13-15, 8-7 Pac-12) might have had the least-efficient offense in the conference.
Arizona destroyed USC a month ago in a 24-point win, the Wildcats’ (23-5, 11-5) most impressive one in conference play.
Before Wednesday, the Trojans were shooting 42.6 percent on the season, or the 212th best total. Their 66 points per game were good for 213th.
On Wednesday, Arizona made them look like a collective Reggie Miller.
The Trojans hit 61.1 percent of their shots (33-of-54), 60 percent of 3-pointers (6-of-10) and 81 percent of free throws (17-of-21) for 89 points.
“Sometimes, when you’re playing in basketball, the Os are bigger than the Xs,” Miller said. “In other words, my guy can’t guard yours. When that happens, it breaks everything down and so much of tonight was just that. Individual players couldn’t guard their individual assignment.”
After a 14-point thrashing of Washington State on Saturday, Miller was more critical than cheerful, and he lambasted the Wildcats’ second-half defensive effort.
For 40 minutes the defensive effort was, well, bad.
The whole “controlling their own destiny” mantra is a bit overused, but losing to an average USC squad took control away from the Wildcats.
Now, it’s out of their hands.
They just need Oregon to lose, and the Wildcats need to win out.
“I just don’t like that feeling,” said Parrom, who scored 16 points. “I like to control my own destiny.”