We are still a solid week and a half away from the tip of our first official college hoops game, but we already have our first upset of the year.
Playing an exhibition game against Seattle Pacific, an Division II school, the Wildcats found themselves down 37-29 at the half. After making a run to take the lead late on a Nick Johnson three late in the second half, the Falcons responded with a run of their own, hanging on for a 69-68 win when a desperation three from Johnson came up short.
“I wish I could say I’m going to throw a lot of things in the locker room and our guys just didn’t try,” Sean Miller told the Arizona Daily Star. “We’re just not very good right now. We aren’t. We’re just not a very good team. … We’re at such the beginning of even being able to play the game that tonight I wished we could have practiced five or seven or eight more times tonight. I’m sure we would have had a better chance to be successful but we didn’t.”
So what happened?
For starters, Arizona couldn’t get any kind of production on the glass from their big men. Kryrl Natyazkho, Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol, the Wildcat’s three centers, combined for just two rebounds. Johnson fouled out in 14 minutes. Granted, there were a couple of good players on the Seattle Pacific roster — Andy Poling transferred in from Gonzaga and Modou Niang from Utah State — but those two players are a far cry from the kind of strength that, say, UCLA has on their front line.
The Falcons also ran a Princeton-style offense and shredded the Wildcats defense with back door cuts, smart passes and offensive execution. Arizona has a lot of new faces on their roster, and defensive sets and rotations take just as long to learn as plays on offense.
The bottom-line, however is that a loss like this really doesn’t matter. Remember when Syracuse lost to Le Moyne back in 2009? Yeah, they came out of no where and won the Big East that year. I don’t think the loss hurt them all that much. Arizona is a young team. They are freshmen playing key roles at important spots on the floor — center and point guard. They are transitioning from a team that lost the two players that dominated offensive possession, including all-american Derrick Williams, and are doing so with an important player in Kevin Parrom unavailable.
This loss was the result of new players being brought in, experienced players in taking on new roles and a team underestimating an opponent because the game was an exhibition. If anything, this loss embarrassed Arizona and exposed their flaws. I’d be willing to bet that the box out drills Miller runs in practice today are going to be pretty intense.
They’ll learn. Arizona will get better. This team will still compete for the Pac-12 title.
Let’s go about our Fridays as usual, mmk?