The Arizona Wildcats mens basketball program suffered its worst loss against the Southern California Trojans in 46 years last Thursday. The Wildcats (14-6, 5-2) were routed by the Trojans from the get-go, trailing wire-to-wire before falling, 80-57, to the home side.
The tide of the evening was set a few minutes after tip off, with the Trojans hitting four of 10 from behind the arc, while the Wildcats hit two of 13 (15.4 percent) from deep.
The team's 23-point loss on Thursday was the largest suffered against the Trojans since Dec. 1, 1973, when Arizona lost to USC, 100-74.
An exasperated Sean Miller picked up a technical foul in the game's first half, arguing a personal foul call. The longtime Arizona coach could barely speak above a whisper in his post-game comments, chalking up the team's loss to a variety of factors.
The key factor that Miller and sophomore forward Ira Lee mentioned was the loss of junior forward Chase Jeter.
Jeter, who is second on the team in scoring (12.6) and first in rebounding (7.2), missed Thursday's game with a back injury he suffered during last Saturday's 82-71 win over Oregon State.
Lee, who scored 12 points for the Wildcats Jan. 24, said losing Jeter was a definite blow to the team's chances.
"It was definitely tough. He's our captain. He's our only true center," Lee said. "So, it was a tough deal but I feel like we battled tonight, but we made a lot of mistakes."
Miller said his squad doesn't have the depth or size to contend with teams like USC, which was led offensively by junior forward Nick Rakocevic, who scored a team-high 27 points in the Trojans's victory.
“The team we have right now without him, we have to make shots, a lot of 3s, jump shots, and we weren’t able to do that. We had one of those miserable nights shooting. Seven turnovers was great, but we weren’t able to finish at the rim, 2-on-1s, drives.”
The Wildcats' lack of size resulted in the team being out-rebounded, 51-38 by the Trojans, resulting in a one-sided affair.
Miller kept his summary of Thursday’s loss short and sweet, calling the game a one-sided affair that his side couldn’t match.
“I don’t think we can take anything” away from it, Miller said. “I mean, we got killed.”
Two days later, Arizona’s luck against the University of California-Los Angeles Bruins remained the same, with the Wildcats falling, 90-69.
The Wildcats were thumped Saturday night thanks to a woeful shooting performance and a defensive malaise that allowed UCLA to hit more than 50 percent of their shots.
The Wildcats were forced to play without Jeter once again against the Bruins, forcing Miller to play four guards against UCLA’s larger lineup.
That size disadvantage allowed the Bruins to finish the night with a resounding 47-30 edge on the glass, with freshman center Moses Brown pulling down 15 rebounds by himself.
The Bruins never relented offensively, taking a 38-25 lead into the half, before outscoring the Wildcats, 52-44 in the game’s final half of play.
An agitated Miller discussed his team’s two-game fate against the Los Angeles schools in the bowels of Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night. He didn’t mince words when describing his team’s play of-late, calling the Wildcats’ play against the Trojans and Bruins an offensive disaster.
“We can't make a shot,” Miller said. “You know, at times we really moved the ball. Attacked the ball by getting the ball in the middle. Dribble penetrating, but you know at the end of the day someone's got to throw that thing in and we're really struggling in that area.”
The high point of Saturday’s trouncing was the 19-point performance put up by freshman guard Brandon Williams, who led all Wildcats in scoring.
Miller praised the L.A. native for his offensive prowess against his hometown team, saying he played a quality game against USC on Thursday.
That solid outing gave Williams confidence going into the Bruins game, according to Miller, which allowed him to pace the team’s offense.
“Tonight, he played a similar floor game except he made some shots as well, but he's playing the best basketball of his career,” Miller said. “It’s great to see him come back here to L.A. and really, in my mind, string two very solid games in, especially offensively.”
The Wildcats (14-7, 5-3) travel to Tempe to play Arizona State at 7 p.m. on Thursday in their lone game of the week.
Both teams are coming off losses in their previous games, with the Sun Devils falling to USC, 69-67, on Saturday night.
Miller hopes to have Jeter back for Thursday’s game, saying the Wildcats’ offense is in need of the junior’s height and defensive prowess.
“We’re a much better team with Chase and I don't know the outcome of either game, but he gives us the size up front,” Miller said. “He also allows everybody to be in the role that they once were in.”