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Arizona men's basketball team drops season finale against Oregon

akinjo
Nathanial Stenchever | The Daily Wildcat

James Akinjo, a junior on the University of Arizona men’s basketball team, dribbles down the court in McKale Center, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020.

The Oregon Ducks defeated the Arizona men's basketball team in Eugene, Oregon, 80-69 in the team’s final game of the season as they will not patriciate in any postseason tournaments due to their self-imposed one-year ban. 

The Wildcats only had two players scoring in double-digits in tonight’s game with James Akinjo at 19 points and Azuolas Tubelis with 12 points as they struggled shooting the ball as a team going 45% from the field and 35% on three-point jump shots. 

“It sucks the way it did, but we have to go home and reflect on the year and talk about what’s next moving forward,” Akinjo said. “I think I’ve really grown as a leader. It was a really long season, and it was very difficult. It’s too early to think about anything like that I want to soak up this moment with my teammates.”

Akinjo led the team in scoring and in assists this season and with so many new freshmen that came into the program, he really stepped up as a leader for this group. Akinjo is likely to be named to an all-Pac-12 team and could explore his options in the NBA Draft in the coming months if he chooses to.

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“This is the 17th team I’ve coached, and I have never been prouder of a group of guys than I am with this team,” head coach Sean Miller said. “This is a group of guys that gave us everything.”

“You always want to be better, but I have the peace of mind that we batted in all 26 games based on where we were in August,” Miller said. “There is not a single player in this locker-room that has anything to do with not playing in the Pac-12 tournament and my heart goes out to them.”

RELATED: OPINION: Arizona needs to give Sean Miller a contract extension

The Wildcats self-imposed a one-year postseason ban due to the on-going allegations against the program for activities that took place in the 2017-18 basketball season. At certain points of the season, it looked like it could go downhill fast, but they stuck together and fought till the very end of the season. 

“In the next couple of weeks, we will have a meeting with our players, and I think the lion-share will come back,” Miller said. “I believe that we can return back to the top of the mountain and it doesn’t happen overnight.”

Only two players graduated and aren’t eligible to come back next season, Ira Lee and Matt Weyand, but everyone else can return to the team if there is a mutual agreement. Arizona already has three incoming four-star players next season with K.J Simpson, Shane Nowell and Shane Dezonie. All three of them are combo-guards/wing players and are ranked in the top 110 according to 247sports. Miller discussed how they have limited scholarships available after last year’s very big recruiting class. 

“I don’t expect anything now that the season is over. I will be able to talk to [President Dr. Robert C. Robbins] and Dave Heeke and when that happens, I will know more” Miller said.

The question arose last week about Miller’s current contract as it is nearing its end after the 2021 season. He said they haven’t discussed a potential new contract yet but said he plans to talk to management this off-season about it. 

The Wildcats defense had a tough time tonight with defending the Ducks' phenomenal shooting from deep as they finished the game 12-22 and had three players with three or more makes from there. Despite having a rough first half and turning the ball over eight times, Arizona only had one turnover in the second half but just couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end of the floor. 

Although there is no postseason for the Arizona men’s basketball team this season, there is still a lot to look forward to in the coming months: see who is returning next season, how many new recruits will there be and we could see the big question of if Sean Miller going to get a contract extension answered. 


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