This was not one of those good losses. This was not losing a close game to Kansas in Las Vegas. This was not even losing to BYU in Salt Lake City and getting torched — again — by Jimmer Fredette.
This was a loss to an Oregon State team rated 196th in the nation by Jeff Sagarin — and that’s after it beat Arizona 76-75 on Sunday night in Corvallis.
Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller has been saying that the Beavers (7-6 overall, 2-0 Pac-10) have been playing their best basketball of the season. He has a point. With sophomore guard Jared Cunningham — how does Oregon State have a smoother, more explosive guard than Arizona? — and sophomore post Joe Burton, I like OSU’s future.
But this is also an Oregon State team that lost at Seattle and at Montana. This is an Oregon State team that lost at home to Texas Southern and Utah Valley.
Let’s slow down here.
If Arizona finds itself on the bubble in a couple of months, when it comes time to compare resumes for the NCAA Tournament, this figures to be a very bad loss.
Miller, in his postgame radio show, blamed three factors:
– Rebounding. Starting frontcourt players Derrick Williams and Jesse Perry combined for 53 minutes and four rebounds. Two each.
– Free throw shooting. Arizona made a scant 13 of 24 attempts. Williams, who entered the game hitting a wonderful 81.7 percent (98 of 12), had one of the nights. He was 3 of 10.
– Turnovers. The Wildcats, after committing 19 turnovers in the win at Oregon on Thursday night, had another 19 vs. the Beavers.
Every now and then, even a good shooting team is going to have an off night. That’s the percentages.
But there had to more chances out there for Williams and Perry than four rebounds. And it’s not a good sign when your point guards — sophomore MoMo Jones and freshman Jordin Mayes — combine for seven turnovers and two assists.
Jones did some nice things in the second half, driving into the Oregon State zone and often finishing. He had 20 points. He also had five of those turnovers.
And after the Beavers took a 72-70 lead in the final minute, Jones put up an off-target 18-footer when he had time to do something else or set up something else. With the game hanging in the balance, it’s probably not a good thing to have perhaps your eighth-best outside shooter taking a critical jumper.
The shooting will come around. That’s not a long-term issue. Miller can address the rebounding and coax better overall effort out of his team.
But there are no easy answers about the point guard play because it basically is what it is.
It was about at this time of the year last season when the light came on for Jones. He made great improvement in the final two months of his freshman year. Perhaps something similar can happen this season? Maybe?
In any case, Arizona (12-3) gets back at it this week at home, playing Cal on Thursday night and Stanford on Saturday.
Looking for good news?
With the unbalanced conference schedule starting next season in the Pac-10, at least Arizona doesn’t have to play at Oregon State in 2012.