SAN JOSE, Calif. - Throughout the season, Sean Miller discusses how important it was that Arizona’s defense never left it.
On Thursday, that is exactly what happened.
“We could not guard them,” Miller said. “If you just go through the numbers, it wasn't the total points, it was the field goal percentage, three-point percentage. The thing that kept us in the game is our rebounding. Usually when we have a 35-27 rebound margin we win and very few times, if we're up eight points with I think under four minutes do we lose, but we did.
“When they had the opportunity to take a shot or make one, they made them and we had a couple that didn't go in. Equally disappointed in myself. You know, our team never really ever established great confidence against the zone.
“I think in some ways that was the reason, defensively, that we weren't as good as we usually are or maybe better than we needed to be, because the game never really felt good and that's on me.
“Your job when you get to this area, when you get to this level of college basketball, your best players gotta be confident. We have to get them shots. I don't care what defense they're playing -- 1-3-1, 2-3, man-to-man -- and I don't feel we did that tonight and that's probably the worst feeling you can have as a coach.”
Even when asked about the offensive struggles near the end of the game, Miller chose to turn the attention to the defense.
“Well, first of all, you've got to remember our defense,” he said. “We had an eight-point lead under the four-minute mark. They needed to make shots. I thought that they hit two 3s in a row, and you have to make the shot you take, that really were barely challenged.
When you're under the four-minute mark and you have teams fighting to stay alive, you have to jump. You have to run at them. You have to close out with great effort. You have to make them miss. You have to understand that even a two is better than a three. We didn't do that and they made the shots.
“Then when you foul on an offensive rebound really late in the game at 15 feet, we gave them two more points that they didn't even have to work for.”
Still, Miller did take blame for the fact that Arizona did not score for nearly the last three minutes.
“Did we get great shots,?” he said. “We have a couple we could have made, maybe we could have made a couple, but it's to my point: We weren't able to get great looks down the stretch or a wide open one.
“That's not these guys. That's on me. We have to be more comfortable this late in the season against that type of defense and we really just never quite established a rhythm that I think we needed to continue to play.”