After Solomon Hill hit a jumper with 1:28 remaining in the first half to pull No. 9 Arizona to within five of Colorado, the Wildcats went more than four minutes without a point. The Buffaloes took advantage, pushing their lead out to 15, giving Colorado the cushion needed to beat Arizona 71-58.
Sean Miller’s team has lost two straight games, and while the performances of Cal’s backcourt on Sunday and Spencer Dinwiddie on Thursday night get the headlines Arizona’s play on the offensive end is the bigger concern when thinking long-term.
Hill finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds but shot 5-of-14 from the field with 11 of the shot attempts being jumpers of varying distances (1-of-6 3PT), and Mark Lyons added 11 points and four assists on 4-of-10 shooting.
As a team Arizona shot 5-of-19 from beyond the arc and averaged just under a point per possession (0.93), with both numbers being a far cry from their season averages entering Thursday’s game (36.3% 3PT; 1.09 points/possession). And while some will use this as an opportunity to lament Arizona’s lack of a “true” point guard the lack of a player who can consistently get them points in the paint is a more glaring issue.
Angelo Chol accounted for eight points and four rebounds off the bench, but what little he generates offensively comes by way of dump-offs from penetrating guards more often than not and the same can be said for Kaleb Tarczewski. Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett are both skilled offensively but neither is at the stage where they’d be a focal point of opposing teams’ scouting reports.
For that reason players such as Hill, Lyons and Nick Johnson are asked to generate much of Arizona’s offense from the perimeter. All capable of getting into the paint off the dribble, they don’t enjoy the same driving lanes to the basket when the three-pointers aren’t falling.
Arizona won’t panic following Thursday’s result nor should they. But if the Wildcats are to win the Pac-12 and be successful in March the offensive issues need to be fixed, beginning with their game at Utah this weekend.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.