The Rundown: On not having fun, bad loss at McKale, and Alkins' struggles
For the second time in as many years, Arizona men’s basketball lost to UCLA at home, this time with results that left more questions than answers for the Wildcats. Here is a rundown of the most noteworthy topics of discussion surrounding the game.
Easy road victory
It would be an understatement to describe the McKale Center as a daunting place for opponents to play in. Prior to the game, Arizona had won 80 of its last 82 matchups at home. It’s now 80 of 83 games after the Bruins put on an offensive clinic in Tucson with 11 3-pointers and 82 points. The loss also marks the first time in five years that Arizona has lost to an unranked foe in its own arena.
“That was probably the easiest victory in McKale, I’m gonna go back about seven, eight years,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “And it didn’t feel the same, you know. You win 80 I think of our last 82 or whatever it is, you’re not used to losing, but especially like that. They had the game in hand.”
Defense the problem, again
The defensive effort and performance of the Wildcats has been under scrutiny all season by Miller and once again, defensive issues plagued Arizona for 40 minutes. In addition to surrendering 11 3-pointers, the Wildcats allowed the Bruins to control the game on both sides of the ball and let UCLA’s talented guards have their way all night.
Aaron Holiday, Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes combined for 42 points and shot a collective 45.7 percent from the field and 6-12 from 3-point range.
“We’ve really never been a great defensive unit early in the year but as the year grows, playing against a team as gifted as UCLA is on offense they can really expose us,” Miller said. “And they did.”
Not having fun
Emotion is at the heart of every sport and against UCLA, the Wildcats showed hardly any of it. The team came out flat to start the game and ended the first half poorly. UCLA held at least 10-point lead for almost the entire second and Arizona failed to exude the comeback mentality it had shown so many time this season.
“I don’t think, like even today, we didn’t even enjoy the game,” senior Dusan Ristic said. “We were like worried not to lose instead of just trying to win. And that’s the difference maker.”
Sophomore guard Rawle Alkins has been in and out of the lineup over the last month as he has dealt with right root soreness that caused him to sit out games recently. Even when he has been on the court, Alkins’ performance has left a lot to be desired. He has blown assignments on defense and hasn’t been able to attack the basket as often as he was at the end of last season. Not being able to establish a rhythm over the last several weeks could be part of the problem.
“If I track the amount of time that he’s missed or sat out, you know even this week practice one day and not practice the next, it’s just very hard to be successful and I’m sure that’s a big part of his struggles,” Miller said.
Alkins scored just five points on 2-9 shooting for the ‘Cats and had three turnovers as well in 29 minutes.
First place up for grabs
Despite losing to the Bruins, Arizona still holds at first place in the Pac-12 standings. With the second place USC Trojans set to come to town on Saturday only one game behind the Wildcats, the winner will have a big advantage in the Pac-12 race the rest of the regular season. Game time is set for 8:15 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.
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