The final home game of the regular season did not go as anticipated for Arizona men’s basketball as the Wildcats were outplayed in the second half and fell 72-64 to ASU at McKale Center. Here are five takeaways from the game, including a mysterious comment from head coach Sean Miller.
Arizona’s seniors did not perform well
The two seniors on Arizona’s roster did not turn in their best performance Saturday afternoon, as Ryan Luther and Justin Coleman combined to go 7-22 from the field and 3-12 from 3-point range.
Luther got off to a hot start with two early 3s in the first nine minutes but then cooled off, missing his next seven attempts. Several times throughout the game, the Sun Devils lost track of Luther on screens and switches, giving the Pitt graduate-transfer an open look to shoot, but he couldn’t convert.
Coleman specifically struggled to attack the paint while guarded by ASU’s Remy Martin. The point guard often drove toward the basket, but Martin and the help defense from the Sun Devils forced Coleman to force an errant shot or pass the ball back to the perimeter. The Samford grad-transfer also dealt with foul trouble most of the night, having to defend an aggressive ASU backcourt and fouled out with 5:07 left in the game.
Coleman finished with nine points, while Luther collected 12 in their final home game.
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You had me at goodbye?
It’s a lot to speculate on, and many will do so, but Miller’s ending comments during the Senior Day ceremony had a lot of heads turning. As he finished talking about Luther and Coleman, standing near the block "A" at center court, Miller told the crowd that “it has been an amazing honor to coach in McKale Center for the last 10 years. Thank you for everything.”
With Miller’s future still uncertain at Arizona, with the federal investigation into college basketball and him being subpoenaed for the trial April 22, the UA head coach’s comments took some by surprise as a few national media members insinuating this was an early farewell statement. When asked by the local media to clarify his statement, Miller declined to comment on what he meant.
However, there has yet to be any concrete evidence linking Miller to participating in the bribery scandal and both UA president Dr. Robert Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke have continued to voice support for the men’s basketball coach. Plus, top signees for 2019 Nico Mannion and Josh Green were in attendance, so it seems unlikely that they would be brought to the game if that were the case for Miller.
Martin stole the show. Again.
The name Remy Martin is one Wildcat fans aren’t going to want to hear for a long time. The sophomore has been UA’s kryptonite in the two matchups this season, combining for 58 points, 27 of which came in McKale Center on Saturday.
Martin proved he was up to the task of guarding the experienced Coleman and made several tough shots in the second half. The ASU point guard scored eight of the team’s final 12 points over the last 5:07 of the game.
Maybe more impressive, Martin had the best stat line of the night with more points (27), rebounds (8) and assists (7) than anyone else on the court.
Foul trouble almost caused chaos for ASU, eventually did for Arizona
Early on, it appeared as though fouls would plague a depleted Sun Devil lineup, who were already missing the presence of freshman Taeshon Cherry. Freshman Luguentz Dort had three fouls in the first half – one of which came on a technical foul for taunting – and Rob Edwards picked up two fouls as well.
But neither fouled out (although bench player Romello White did in the second half) and it was Arizona that had two of its better players pick up five personal fouls each, Coleman and Brandon Williams.
Williams came off the bench and somehow managed to have five fouls in 15 minutes of play. The one that forced his exit seven minutes into the second half came on a questionable charge call against Dort. The UA freshman’s stat line in his last home game of the season was a four-point effort, all coming via the free-throw line.
Arizona’s game slot was already determined during the game vs. ASU, as Oregon State knocked off Washington State, but the loss to the Sun Devils solidifies the ‘Cats into the No. 9 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament. USC lost to Colorado Saturday, so the Trojans have locked in the No. 8 seed.
The 8/9 game will be played on March 13 at noon at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with the winner advancing to play No. 1 seed Washington.
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