Arizona basketball: Miller rants about technical, Wildcats stop Drew II
LAS VEGAS – While the missed jump shot by senior forward Solomon Hill officially buried Arizona’s conference tournament hopes, it was two points from four minutes earlier that really irked head coach Sean Miller in the Wildcats 66-64 semifinal loss to UCLA at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
At the 4:37 mark, Arizona had a two-point lead and the ball. Senior Mark Lyons dribbled the ball across the top of the key before being harassed by defenders. He took too many steps and was called for a travel, even though it appeared that a UCLA player touched the ball on the play.
The call went from bad to worse for the Wildcats, as Miller was awarded his first technical of the season for arguing the call and the Bruins’ Jordan Adams hit the two ensuing free throws to tie it up at 56 all. It’s safe to say Miller wasn’t pleased.
“I gave them two points, they didn’t earn those two points,” Miller said after the game. “Me, I gave them two points. The [final] score was 66-64.”
Adams’ two free throws were part of a stretch where the freshman scored 11 straight for his side. For Miller, though, it all pointed back to the decision by the official.
“I told our team after the game that [the loss] is all completely on me,” Miller said. “If you’re the coach of the team and you get a technical in this type of situation, under four minutes, that’s unacceptable.”
Miller let his displeasure known in the postgame press conference in a rant that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. At one point he continued to yell what he was punished for on the court: “he touched the ball.”
“It’s just so difficult when you invest hundreds of hours, and in [Hill’s] case, thousands of hours. And if I cuss and I’m out of control, then shame on me,” Miller said. “But when I say, ‘he touched the ball, he touched the ball.’ Because, quite frankly, I think two of [the officials] could have gotten together and explained that he did touch the ball. That’s what I was hoping for.
“That technical right there is tough to swallow.”
UCLA’s head coach Ben Howland said after the game that officials put a big emphasis on leaving the coaching box. While Miller said he didn’t curse during his argument, he did acknowledge that he might have left the designated area.
Even if that was the case, Lyons saw the technical as a sign of disrespect considering how close the game was. Especially with how little time was left on the clock.
“My coach should be more respected than to get a tech under four minutes,” Lyons said. “He’s been through a lot, he’s coached a lot of teams that have been in a lot of places. I don’t feel like any other coach would’ve got that technical. I just feel they don’t have enough respect for my coach and what he’s done for the NCAA.”
The technical free throws were just two of the 21 free throws the Bruins had in the game, another part of the officiating that frustrated Miller after the game. Arizona took just nine from the line.
“With the game that close, and something that I’m not sure if it was that bad (it was odd),” Ashley said about the call. “But it happens and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Bottling up Drew II
UCLA’s Larry Drew II torched Arizona during the first two meetings this season. He averaged 10.5 points, 9.0 assist and masterfully controlled the Bruins’ offense from the point guard spot. Miller said after the 74-69 loss in Los Angeles that the senior was his Pac-12 player of the year, and it the vote wasn’t even close in his mind.
Friday the Wildcats made a change. Sophomore Nick Johnson, the designated defensive stopper, moved over to defend Drew II and try to limit his impact. It worked.
Drew II finished with a goose egg in the points column on 0-for-5 shooting and was limited to four assists while committing two turnovers.
“We went into this game determined not to let Larry Drew II beat us the way he did in the first and second game,” Miller said. “Really mission accomplished. Not that he didn’t play an excellent game, but they went about it a different way.”
The Bruins still found scoring in other areas, mainly from Adams, who finished with 24 points, including 18 in the second half. The change in defensive philosophy clearly had a positive impact, though, as UCLA scored the fewest points in the three meetings and shot under 40 percent (24-for-61) from the floor. Stopping the senior play-maker was a big reason why.
“He’s a great distributor, he showed that in the first few games against us and the whole season,” Johnson said. “Just try to take away his passing lanes.”
Howland had a different outlook on things.
“I thought (Drew II) had a very good game,” Howland said. “I thought he was a little tired defensively, but he doesn’t have to score, and neither does Kyle [Anderson]. They’re point guards. Point guards make their teammates better.”
While Johnson and the Wildcats were able to contain Drew II and slow down the Bruin attack, the final result was still the same — a third loss of the season to the regular season Pac-12 champions.
Sour end to Adams’s night
UCLA’s Adams made it look easy at times, scoring 11 straight points for the Bruins midway through the second half, willing his team back into the game. The hero of the game, or villain in Arizona’s perspective, didn’t have the ending anyone would hope for, though.
On the final play of the game, Adams jumped to contest Hill’s potential game-tying shot. He landed awkwardly on his foot, breaking his fifth metatarsal in his right foot. He will be out for the rest of the season.
At the time of the press conference, it was unconfirmed yet that Adams’ foot was broken because Adams was getting an X-ray in the building. Howland didn’t want to comment on the injury until he was positive on what happened