Miller knows week will be tough

Sean Miller knows the next two games against the Oregon schools will be difficult. Read on for his thoughts on the games, Nick Johnson, and more.

The road trip to Southern California is always a tough one as both the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans leave you bruised going home. Fortunately for Arizona, it was able to escape the weekend with a split as it fell to the Bruins 65-58 but bounced back with a 57-46 win against USC.

Shooting from downtown was a big reason that Arizona struggled in Los Angeles as it shot 17.6 percent from behind the arc against UCLA and 13.3 percent against USC. Sean Miller addressed the media Tuesday afternoon and gave credit for playing two good defensive team.

"I thought UCLA did a great job guarding us and obviously USC is a great defensive team regardless of who they play," said Miller. "You look at the Kansas game at the Galen Center and they score 61 points and you think about how good of an offensive team they are. Some of it is giving credit where credit is due.

"We missed a few and in particular more in the UCLA game than USC game. We took a few quick, ill-advised threes and when you do that on the road, the ball has a funny way of not going in."

Confidence shooting the ball will be huge for a young Arizona team that still has time to right the ship. But what many will overlook is that the Wildcats held both UCLA and USC to an even worse shooting performance.

The Bruins were only 1 of 9 from deep for 11 percent and USC was a dismal 1 of 15 for 6.7 percent. These stats still keep Miller optimistic.

"We are really defending the three well," said Miller. "As bad as we were, I think the other two teams were worse, which says a lot about our three-point defense and hopefully a sign of things to come as we hopefully develop into a really good defensive team."

The turnaround from Sunday's game into this Thursday's matchup with Oregon State back in Tucson proves to be a huge test for Arizona after not performing as well as it wanted to last week. The Beavers bring their 11-5 (1-3) record into McKale Center with a talented roster and good coaching staff.

"This is a huge week for us," Miller explained. "It's a two game home stand against two teams who are improved from last year. We have to shoot better and we have to take care of the ball better this week to have a chance to win."

Oregon State features a great duo of coach and star player that is as good as any in the conference. Head coach Craig Robinson has done a good job of recruiting to Corvallis and getting his players to play hard each and every game.

Jared Cunningham is one of the league's best players and at 17.6 points and 2.9 steals per game this season proves that he can do it on both ends of the floor, which makes him one of Millers' favorite players.

"I think Craig Robinson has done as good a job of running his program and rebuilding his program as any coach in the country," said Miller. "If you look at when he took over Oregon State just a few short years ago and where they were, he has recruited very well. He has an influx of talent.

"Jared Cunningham, one of my favorite players in the country, does it on offense and defense. Gives great effort, he's explosive and to me he is one of the more talented guards that plays college basketball."

The matchup with the Beavers will be an up-tempo game, which is to the strength of both teams. Oregon State is scoring 84.4 points per game good for fifth in the country, but is struggling defensively, giving up over 80 points in its previous eight games.

Many of the points are created from players like Cunningham, who get their hands in the passing lanes leading to fast break opportunities. Miller knows that taking care of the ball will be important to the Wildcats' chances of success.

"They push the ball, they have a number of players that can score and they use their defense to create scoring opportunities when they turn you over," explained Miller. "One thing about Craig Robinson's teams, whether they are in zone or man, the defense is always predicated on trying to turn you over and being aggressive.

"That is something that we have to do a really good job of, especially on the heels of our turnovers in L.A. If we can take care of the ball, that will be a huge stat towards us beating Oregon State."

Arizona is now 11-5, 2-1 in conference and despite having a winning record in the league, a few of the key contributors did not have a weekend worth writing home about, most notably freshman Nick Johnson. He has shown an ability to not show his youth much this season, but really struggled from the field in Los Angeles.

Johnson was a combined 3 of 15 from the field in the two games and was 0 of 6 from behind the arc. Miller said despite the lack of scoring, Johnson still can contribute and must move past the bad offensive week that he had.

"Nick is a perfectionist and he has been rock solid for our team in a huge way as a freshman," said Miller. "Every freshman has his bumps in the road and I have no doubt that he will handle it well.

"Nick can impact the game in several ways. He had seven rebounds in the game against USC and that isn't something that he has been doing as well as we would have liked. I think that is a great sign. Him and Josiah combining for 12 rebounds as a one and a two was a big reason as to why we were able to win."

Wildcat Authority Top Stories