VIDEO: Miller After UCLA
Sean Miller: well, obviously not a good feeling when you lose in front of a crowd like that in a big game. But we lost to a really good team tonight. We lost to a team that came in here ready. They lost a pivotal, tough game at home before this game, and they learned from it and came in here ready. One difference between UCLA, this year and seasons' past, is they have a faster tempo. We knew that and we talked a lot about that, but the number of different players they have that can thrive in transition can really give you problems. That was part of our slow start tonight. And the other part of our slow start tonight is we missed probably 4, what I would call really good shots for our team. 4, maybe 5. Then, when you get down 21-5 at home, sometimes you can really go out of character, trying to make things happen. And you do it more individually than as a team. And when you try to make plays individually against a talent team, our turnovers… we have 14. But almost every one of our turnovers led to a dunk, a layup. It was an amazing turn of events. I think at halftime we had 6 turnovers which is pretty good. I think they converted all 6 for points but they were turnovers that didn't really come from our offense. They came from individual play. We didn't pass the ball. We didn't share it quite as well. And that can happen when you're always playing from behind. From a defensive perspective, they're a tough team to defend. But they really abandoned what they did, in the second half, and just went to a high-middle ball screen.
Their point guard played a great, great game. [Larry Drew II]'s 9 assists don't reflect on how he dominated the game. I would say he had probably 4 or 5 other players where his pass led to a foul, but that's not an assist, but we had no answer for him and he picked us apart. He's a really, really good player. He's the perfect point guard for their team because he makes everybody better. That you really felt that, watching the game tonight.
We played hard. We rallied. It wasn't like we didn't try. And our crowd was great. But we lost. And for us, it's just like Duke going to Miami and losing, Louisville losing 2 in a row, UCLA losing in a game at home before they show up here. It's tough to just string them out, one after another, for 35 games. But for us, it's important that this loss… that we learn from it. And we also put it behind us. And at 5 o'clock on Saturday, that we take advantage of playing a home game. And we play well against USC. So that's a challenge for us: to be able to take this loss, learn from it, yet move away from it, and be better the next game.
Q: Sean, the players indicated they felt like they weren't communicating in that early stretch when the Bruins got it going. How surprised were you, with seniors on the floor, that there was a lack of communication?
SM: it's just the fast pace. It's not easy. They're coming at you on makes and misses. They have a number of players that can make plays. I don't know if we communicated any worse tonight than we did our whole season. It's just that as the season grows, you have to be ready and you have to keep improving. And I thought we ran into a really good team here tonight. No excuses. They were the better team tonight in McKale Center. Did we miss a few shots early that we normally make? Yes. But they did a lot of things throughout that game that caused us problems, and we have to learn from it.
Q: Sean, how hard is it when you get down like you did, in an environment like this, how hard is it to stay with the game plan and not feel that sense of urgency?
SM: it is hard. And you know, part of playing hard to get back into the game, is you want to take it upon yourself. And sometimes it worked for us. But there's a reason you win with the pass. And you have patience. And you have execution. And you play true team ball. And I'm not talking about transition opportunities that are always a part of the game. It was hard for us to adjust once we got down that big. And to me, we played a style that just isn't going to work against a team that's good. We needed much more poise. Much better execution. Much more passing. And again, like you said, what can cause that? #1, a good team. But also, you look at that scoreboard and you're like, "God, it just doesn't feel right." And it never really did feel right the whole game.
Q: do you just chalk up Mark Lyons's night to "one of those things" or was there something deeper going on there?
SM: he didn't have a good game. No question. And as you know, he's had quite a few really good games for us. But we needed him to play really well tonight, and he didn't. And I'll also tell you there are a number of guys that can stand in that same line, including me. I thought UCLA really executed underneath the out of bounds. They scored, I think, 6 points against us in that area. I don't know how many we scored but they outexecuted us there. They went to that middle ball screen in the second half, and we never really had a true answer on how to defend those 2 players and that caused us problems. There are a lot of things, A through Z, that when you lose a game like this, are responsible in. Part of which you have to recognize is UCLA's a pretty good team. They're not the same team that they were a month or two ago. And I think as you keep following them, we all knew at the beginning of the year that they had a chance to be special and I think they still have that chance.
Q: you closed the gap a couple of times to 6. What were you thinking when…
SM: well, we'd been there a lot of times so that's one thing I was thinking. But it wasn't going to be tonight. That 6 didn't quite feel the same. I don't know if we ever had that look in our eyes that, "okay, we're here." We always seemed to be playing catch-up. Because we were. We were. That start was such a punch, with the crowd like we have. It takes a resilient bunch and it takes a lot of good plays to make up that ground. To spot them a lead of 21-5… they're a very good team to try to come back against.
Q: you switched from Nick [Johnson] to Solomon [Hill] on Shabazz [Muhammad] and he did a pretty good job there for a moment…
SM: I know Shabazz because I've watched him a lot. He plays like an older player. He had a quiet 23. It was effortless. And that's what makes him a special player. He's going to score against Arizona. Arizona State. He's good. He's really good. Everyone likes to see like, "what's a guy who's a really player look like?" Him. He was a big difference. As was a few of their other players. But that guy's a great one.
Q: what would you attribute Kaleb Tarczewski's struggles to, tonight?
SM: he couldn't quite play well. Again, we needed Mark [Lyons] to play well. Well, we needed Kaleb to play well. But I also think that I don't know how good of a position he was put in. A lot of drives, a lot of just hard drives… I looked at it, we were battling uphill the whole game. I never really felt good watching our offense. Even some of the plays, that I thought we played well as a team, we missed the shot at the end of that. And there were some times that where we went individual and we would make the shot. "Fool's gold" is the term that I would use just to describe our offense that when we played, most of the time, it wasn't the function of execution or quality of players, but it was the guy just trying like crazy to win the game.
Q: Kaleb's missed some point blank shots and some close turnarounds. In practice, does he have a more refined touch that you see offensively that just hasn't translated into in-game situations? Or has that been a struggle even in practice?
SM: no. He struggled a little bit on offense. Against Oregon State, he had such a huge impact on that win because of how he rebounded. He played defense. I think he scored a couple baskets. His future, in scoring, will keep growing as he gets older. Where he's at now (he does a lot of things for the team now), I don't know if tonight was his night either, comprehensively. And that hurt us. But again, that's a long line. That's not a short line. There's a lot of us in it. And when you play a team as good as UCLA, who was ready tonight, we really needed to play a great game to win.
Q: you talked about Duke and Louisville and all those. We're in mid-January. What does this mean?
SM: early, but not. We're trying to compete for a conference championship. And anytime you drop a home game, that's not a good thing. You always want to measure yourself against good opponents and UCLA certainly is one of them. And they were the better team tonight. And I think there are some things that all of us are trying to get better at. But when you have a loss sometimes, you really can get the attention of your team and everybody associated with what we're doing, to really start to get better in these areas. Sharing the ball and passing the ball. Being more patient. Taking what the defense gives. And defensively understanding actually how hard you have to play. I look in the second half, our defense started to wear on them a little bit. But that's deceiving too because they shot 27 free throws in the second half. A lot of those possessions, we had to foul them. So I don't think we were very good on defense or offense and UCLA certainly had a lot to do with that.
Q: 3 point shooting was off too as well as the early layups. Is that also a function of not passing and working like…
SM: yeah, we had some good looks. No question. We had a couple… like I think one time Grant [Jerrett] had a shot near the top and it was around a 6-7 point game so if the thing goes in, that takes you to 3. But it was a great shot. It was good execution. So it's not as if every possession was a disaster. Like I said, sometimes the possessions that were quality didn't result in a "make." And there were possessions that we scored on that had nothing to do with offense. It was just a guy trying to make a play. Same thing defensively. There were times when I thought we were really on it and executed. And then trying to mount that comeback for 40 minutes, we almost tired ourselves out. And then I go back to Larry Drew. Larry Drew was a real factor in tonight's win for UCLA. He was a really good player.
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