Sean Miller

Arizona’s offensive execution must improve if they’re to be a national contender

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TUCSON, Ariz. – It isn’t often that a team can score 80 points in regulation (92 for the game) and be open for criticism in regards to their execution on the offensive end of the floor. But that’s the case for No. 3 Arizona, who has a lot of work to do in that regard in spite of their 92-83 overtime win over Colorado.

The Wildcats trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half due in large part to their impatience on the offensive end of the floor, shooting 7-of-27 from the field overall and 3-of-11 from beyond the arc.

And with Colorado finding much better looks the Wildcats were fortunate to trail by just seven points at the break.

“Whether we won or lost my message to the team was going to be the same, and it was that we’re playing with fire with the way we play offense,” head coach Sean Miller said after the game.

In more than a few of Arizona’s games leading into Pac-12 play things came easy in spite of their turnover issues, and it may have spoiled them a bit when it came to how they executed on the offensive end of the floor.

And the refusal to be “greedy” offensively, to not remain patient and work for quality looks, nearly put Arizona in a hole too deep to crawl out of. But they got better, shooting 60% from the field in the second half and that set the stage for another Wildcat comeback.

Mark Lyons led six Wildcats in double figures with 24 points however both he and Nick Johnson (12 points) struggled from the field, combining to shoot 8-of-27 from the field (17-of-18 from the foul line).

Having the resolve to fight back and a 44-33 edge on the glass should be seen as positives that Arizona can build upon, beginning with their game against Utah on Saturday.

But if this team is to take their 13-0 start and turn it into something truly special down the line, they have to get better offensively.

“All of a sudden we were taking fast shots and turning the ball over; it was an issue. That is a lesson we have learned,” said Miller. “If we play that way going forward, it’s not going to look good.”

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.