Commentary: Arizona defense MIA in loss to NC State

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Photo Courtesy of Aaron Steinberg. 

Arizona men's basketball huddles before taking on NC State in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in Paradise Islands, Bahamas Nov. 22.

The Arizona men’s basketball team came out sluggish against a thirsty NC State team and despite erratic performances offensively, the achilles’ heel for the Wildcats was the defense. Perhaps UA fans should have seen this coming.

Hidden from critique early in the season due to high scoring the numbers on the offensive side of the ball, the Arizona defense was lost, out of position and lacked toughness in a 90-84 loss to the Wolfpack at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament on Wednesday.

On several occasions NC State fifth-year senior Allerik Freeman made Arizona look silly. Not because of high degree of difficulty shots, but because he drove right time after time and no one on the Wildcats could stop him. Freeman had 24 points on 7-for-18 shooting, including going 10-for-12 at the free throw line. Seemingly every time Freeman took it to the basket he was fouled. With very little help side defense, Arizona continued to fall apart.

It wasn’t pretty and head coach Sean Miller knows it. A head coach that is staunch on the details of defense, this loss was as bad as there has been in the Miller era, especially because of the manner in which it all played out.

Seemingly every Arizona player had an opportunity to get on the floor and play poor defense outside of the one player Miller had praised as being someone good defensively, Emmanuel Akot. Akot saw action for only four minutes, for a lengthy wing that appeared to be an awful miscalculation. If it wasn’t Freeman, it was a host of other Wolfpack players who capitalized off of open shots and layups.

Ohio State transfer Braxton Beverly torched Arizona from outside for 20 points in just his third game for NC State. And though no one else scored in the high double-figures, as a team NC State was aggressive and attacked the basket on every possession.

For a team with National Championship aspirations, these Wildcats may have just realized that every night they will get the other teams best shot.

Moving forward the errors are easily correctable. Yes, it may be coach speak but several times UA players were lost on the court, failing to see where they were supposed to be, not in position to help and training late creating and-1 opportunities for the Wolfpack.

In their first real test, these Wildcats failed defensively and miserably. Moving forward, if they truly believe they can reach the Final Four, they’ll have to better. We’ll see how the Wildcats respond when they play tomorrow in the losers bracket.


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