Sean Miller wasn’t thinking about his 300th career win last night as his University of Arizona basketball team was losing to Oregon. The seventh-year head coach was too busy fuming over his team’s sub-par performance that enabled the Ducks to become the first team in almost three years to beat the Cats on their home court.
“I’ve never been more down, looking at a team that I’ve coached,” Miller said in his post-game interview. That covers 11 years and two universities as a head coach.
That’s some kind of serious disappointment.
An offense that was on fire – shooting 72.7 from the field in the first half and a sizzling 61 percent for the game – was offset by a defense that disappeared at times and a failure to secure the ball. The Wildcats turned the ball over 19 times, three times more than their opponents, and that included nine steals.
And that spelled the difference, giving the Ducks a come-from-behind 83-75 win.
This game was an especially frustrating loss because it broke the nation’s longest active home-court winning streak. Arizona had won 49 games in a row since losing to California back on Feb. 10 of 2013. Wildcat fans had grown accustomed to leaving McKale Center with big smiles on their faces. Last night they left stunned.
The Cats (16-5, 4-4) were so dominant at home, in fact, that 44 of those 49 victories were by double-digit margins. Twenty-six wins were by 20 or more points.
And for Miller, it would have been a personal milestone, his 300th career win.
Not long after tip-off, it looked like Miller was well on the way to notching number 300. The Cats nailed their first eight shots to take an 18-7 lead and stretched it to 13 points before the half reached mid-point.
But Oregon (17-4, 6-2) closed the gap to one point, 42-41, by the time intermission arrived and then went on a 10-run early in the second half that gave them the lead for the first time with 16 minutes still to go in the game.
The score was tied up at 64-64, but Oregon went on another run, eight points this time, and managed to keep the Cats at arm’s length the rest of the way. The Ducks outscored Arizona 19-11 over the final six-and-a-half minutes.
Ryan Anderson led Arizona’s scoring with 22 points, while two other players hit double figures, Gabe York with 18 and Kaleb Tarczewski with 11.
Miller knew coming into the game that Oregon was a legitimate contender to break his home winning streak. The Ducks had won six of their last seven games behind the scoring of Dillon Brooks, who put up 24 points last night, the 16th time in 17 games that the sophomore forward has scored in double figures.
“I’m glad it was Oregon (that broke the streak) because I think they represent all the qualities that are good in basketball,” Miller offered in opening his post-game presser.
As for his own squad: “Where our team is right now, it’s not a good place.”
When asked to point to the most obvious problems, he rattled off four: leadership, effort, togetherness, and playing for the win. “We’re a team that’s really struggling to find itself,” he said.
“We have to come to grips with probably two things,” he added, directing his ire at his players. “One, Sean Miller is your coach and you’re going to play for me. And two, you’re going to play so hard you can’t breathe.”
Sounds like practices between now and tomorrow’s game with Oregon State aren’t going to be for the faint of heart.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)