Arizona basketball notes: Johnson's slump not a big a problem for Wildcats
Junior guard Nick Johnson looks to pass the ball during Arizona’s 54-76 win against Oregon State at McKale Center on Sunday.
Starting shooting guard Nick Johnson has been in something of a slump recently.
While Johnson has scored 32 points over Arizona’s last three games, the junior has failed to convert any of his past 12 attempts from the 3-point range.
This week head coach Sean Miller was quick to defend his leader and pointed out that, regardless of the recent lack of 3-point production, Johnson makes an invaluable contribution to the team both on and off the court.
“He’s so far beyond having to make 3-point shots to play well,” Miller said, “what he does on defense, what he does rebounding, the fact that he plays three positions in one game. He can score at the basket and shooting pull-ups. He’s had games where he hasn’t shot the [3-pointer] well, but he’s scored.”
Miller said that he thinks the good news for both Johnson and the team is that he’s going to get back on track. “If we’ve been winning games without [Johnson] making threes, imagine how we’ll look when he gets going again and makes a few,” he said.
Recently, Johnson has been relying on a mid-range jumper to accumulate points, veering away from his inconsistent long-range jump shot. He is shooting with 34.3 percent accuracy from beyond the arc this year.
“Everybody looks at me for confidence,” Johnson said, “so I’m just trying to stay confident [in my shooting abilities] for my team and know those shots will go in the next game.”
Pitts on increased playing time
The consequences of sophomore forward Brandon Ashley’s season-ending injury is that new players who haven’t had much of an opportunity to play will get more chances to impact the game, and the Wildcats can toy with expanding their rotation and searching for depth. Freshman shooting guard Elliott Pitts has enjoyed increased playing time recently. Pitts said that the game is beginning to slow down and that he’s feeling better during defensive match ups.
“I’ve been feeling much more comfortable on the court,” Pitts said. “It’s easier to get in the groove when I’m playing more. Before all of this happened, I would get on the court for two, three minutes at a time. It’s definitely hard to get comfortable in [such a short time], but I just tried to go out there, play as hard as I [could] and do the little things.”
When asked what he was going to do to keep himself on the court and enjoy more minutes, Pitts said his rebounding and defending skills would make him an asset.
“Defensively, I think I’ve just gotten used to the speed and strength of the game,” Pitts said. “I’ve been guarding Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson] every day in practice, and I think that’s been helping me a lot. Getting out there on the court, it’s made it easier to guard other guys on other teams.”
Pitts said he just tries to stay ready. Miller told him he would be seeing more time after the California game because the team needed to expand its bench. Since then, Pitts has been trying to stay in shape as much as he can and has been staying late after practice to put in additional work.
–Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17