The problems Arizona has continuously come across all season long have seemingly caught up with the team more often in recent weeks. Thursday's beating at the hands of the Colorado Buffaloes was just the latest example of UA's struggles and now it appears that opponents have figured out just how to stunt the Wildcats' offensive attack.
Losing to CU in the manner they did really brings a lot of questions to the forefront for the Wildcats. Not just about their position within the Pac-12, but how is Arizona going to perform in the postseason if its key players don't get out of their current funk? The freshmen certainly don't look ready to contribute at a level that can carry the team and the supporting cast has been inconsistent all season.
So what has to happen? A review of last night's key issues for UA will provide a few answers.
There has been visible frustration throughout roster in recent weeks and Thursday night was no different. Earlier in the season, Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson were carrying the load, but since conference play began, their play has lacked consistency.
Against the Buffaloes, Arizona's scorers were relatively quiet and when they became assertive with the ball, they simply fell short. Their confidence seems to have been shaken and the cohesiveness within the team has struggled as those players have taken a step backwards recently. The team will be successful as long as those three get out of their funk, but until that happens, UA will continue to struggle.
Opposing defenses are learning how to defend the Wildcats and have done a good job in recent weeks of preventing their offense from getting easy looks at the basket. Quality shooting from three-point land would counter that problem, but unfortunately UA has only shot better than 40 percent one time over its previous eight contests.
There are shooters scattered all over UA's roster, yet they only seem to show up periodically. Solomon Hill, Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson, Kevin Parrom, Jordin Mayes and Grant Jerrett are all capable of hitting three-point shots, but none of them seem to have the confidence in their shooting at the moment. Opponents are going to make UA beat them from the outside until the three-point threat returns.
Struggling defensive play
Colorado was on fire throughout portions of the game on Thursday, but that has been a common theme for a few games for Arizona's opponents. Granted, there have been times where the opposition has been virtually unstoppable regardless of how well the Wildcats played defense, but they have had less success – specifically over the last two contests – with their defensive efforts, and it has allowed opposing shooters to catch fire.
Point guard play
Actually, it's the lack of point guard play that should be emphasized. To be fair, Lyons does some things that point guards should do: he drives to the basket, shoots well from the outside and breaks down the defense with his dribbling. Where Lyons struggles, however, is within the half-court offense. He seems to play better off the ball and is most productive when someone else is setting him up.
The main problem is that the Wildcats don't have anyone to set him up. Johnson, in a lot of ways, has a similar offensive approach as Lyons. Hill can play point-forward, but he shouldn't be handling point guard duties full time. Mayes comes off the bench to spell Lyons and Johnson, but he simply isn't a point guard.
The lack of point guard is one of the big reasons why Arizona's young big men are struggling. Granted, a lot of their early shortcomings have been due to the challenges that they have faced on their own, but not having someone who can put them in good position to score. The young big men have often been forced to create everything on their own, which is challenging in itself.
A look back: Colorado
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