Arizona controls destiny

Sean Miller addressed the media on Tuesday. Read on to see hat he said about UCLA, Arizona's post play, and what the Wildcats need to do to be successful.

Arizona got its first win in the Pac-12 conference on Saturday by beating its rivals from the north, Arizona State, 68-51. The initial game gave the Wildcats a win in a conference that can see any number of teams take the crown.

It was the defense that really impressed head coach Sean Miller, who says that he thinks where his team is defensively this season is the best it has been since arriving at Arizona.

"We are a better defensive team as I talk to you today than at any point last year and we are light years ahead of where we were two years ago," explained Miller. "We might not be as good on offense and we might not have the capability to be as good on offense as last year.

"At one point we were one of the best offensive teams in the country with [Derrick Williams]. I liked our defense against Arizona State and we have to build on that."

Miller and Arizona will get their chance as they travel to Los Angeles to take on UCLA on Thursday night and USC Sunday. Both teams dropped two games in the Bay Area last weekend and will look to capitalize back on their home courts.

The Bruins most notably are without power forward Reeves Nelson, who was dismissed from the team back on December 9. Nelson has had several strong performances against the Wildcats including a 27 point, 16 rebounds game last year at Pauley Pavilion.

Miller sees the situation as an unfortunate one, but thinks that the loss of Nelson does not hurt the Bruins.

"Any time a situation like that occurs as a college basketball coach or as a fan of college basketball, it is disappointing," said Miller. "Reeves Nelson is a very good player. You look at the performances that he has had against us in the last couple of years and he was very difficult for us to deal with. In no way does that mean that him not being on the team is a detriment to their future.

"I'm not in their locker room or on their practice court, so I can't speak to why it didn't work out. It's unfortunate for him and in some ways it's probably unfortunate for UCLA."

UCLA is 5-2 since Nelson's departure and at one point won five in a row. Miller thinks that it is due to re-focusing on the bigger picture.

"Ben Howland is a terrific coach and you don't go to three straight final fours without knowing what you are doing," said Miller. "To me, UCLA will do nothing but get better from their earlier state of mind in November and they are already showing signs of that."

Despite not having Nelson, the Bruins still have a good amount of size to bother Arizona. 6-foot-10, 305-pound Josh Smith will be a load in the middle, but is surrounded by other forwards such as David and Travis Wear, Brendan Lane, and Anthony Stover.

The Wildcats will need to play deeper in the front court and that means added contributions from players other than Jesse Perry.

"I think Alex Jacobson, Kyryl [Natyazhko] and Angelo [Chol] combined all of their contributions, where we don't need them to be in the scoring-points column, but good play, using their size against Josh Smith the best we can," explained Miller. "He is such a dominant player when he gets the ball deep; we need help from them.

"That's why depth and versatility are so important when you get to conference play because different teams may require different things on our end."

Going into Los Angeles this weekend and winning two games is very attainable if you are the Wildcats, who are playing with a lot of confidence right now. With the conference up for grabs, Miller knows that if Arizona does the things that makes it successful then it will be a right there at the end.

"We can't really control what the other team does or doesn't, but what we can really control is how well we play and how hard we play," said Miller. "Make sure that our guys come into the game ready. That is really what winning on the road requires.

"Josh Smith can have a good game and we win or he can play poorly and we can still lose. It is just about us doing what we do as well as we can and keep that focus on us."


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