How long has it been since the Arizona Wildcats lost six games in a row? You would have to go all the way back to Lute Olson’s very first season in Tucson, in 1983-1984. This is how rare it is for a brand-name college basketball program to fall on such noticeably hard times.
As soon as Olson built Arizona into a national power, prolonged struggles ceased to be a part of Arizona’s reality. Olson’s retirement in 2008 after a quarter of a century finally created a period of noticeable instability for the Wildcats, but even in the brief coaching tenures of Kevin O’Neill, Mike Dunlap, and Russ Pennell, Arizona didn’t lose six in a row.
Only now have the Wildcats recalled Lute’s first season in Tucson. They can’t undo the past, but they can try to prevent six from becoming seven, after losing 83-76 to the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City on Thursday night.
“We don’t want to lose our seventh in a row, but is it is a possibility. For us, it is controlling the things that we can control,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said.
One thing the Wildcats have to control is their defense. Arizona’s offense has been atrocious for much of the season, but if the Wildcats can’t guard, they have no chance. Four different Utah players scored at least 14 points on Thursday, but the bigger story was that two Utes who came into the game averaging just seven points per contest exploded for big numbers.
Parker Van Dyke hit 7 of 10 3-pointers en route to a career-high 23 points, while Utah teammate Jayce Johnson went 8 of 10 from the floor and scored all 17 of his points in the second half. No one will expect Arizona to produce great offensive games, but the Wildcats have to hold opponents in the 60s to have a reasonable chance of winning games.
If Arizona wants to avoid losing seven in a row this coming weekend against Colorado in Boulder, Sean Miller needs to start with a renewed emphasis on halfcourt defense. That’s what he has to be able to control.
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