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Arizona, Sean Miller perplexed, vexed by technical foul in loss to UCLA

Sean Miller

Sean Miller nearly removed his jacket after he was called for a technical foul. Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — The Arizona Wildcats were spinning out of control in the second half, confounded by a flurry of points from UCLA’s Jordan Adams, and then it happened.

The technical.

So much happened before and after the technical on coach Sean Miller with 4:37 left to go, but that’s the moment that will become a flashpoint for Arizona’s 66-64 loss to UCLA in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday night.

“I told our team after the game, that’s all completely on me,” Miller said.

“If you’re the coach of a team and you get a technical in this type of situation under 4 minutes, that’s unacceptable.”

Here’s how Miller in his postgame news conference, with rising intensity, with the theatrics to make this an enduring YouTube moment, said it went down after Mark Lyons seemingly lost control of the ball on a drive before re-gathering possession. The officials called a double-dribble turnover:

Miller argued that Adams touched the ball, which would have made it a legal play.

“The reason I got the technical foul is because I said, ‘He touched the ball. He touched the ball … He touched the ball. He touched the ball. HE TOUCHED THE BALL.’

“That’s a hard one when you work August, September, October, November, December, January, February, and here we are.

“My man over here (senior Solomon Hill), he’s never coming back here again. His coach gets a technical foul. Didn’t cuss. Didn’t challenge him.”

Adams made both free throws to tie the game at 56.

“He hit the ball out of my hands, and the ref called a travel,” Lyons said. “Coach, I love his intensity. That’s not the reason we lost the game. There were a lot of things that led up to it.”

The game was tied three more times after that, with UCLA’s Kyle Anderson putting in the deciding points off an offensive rebound with 23 seconds left.

On Arizona’s final possession, the Cats worked the ball to Solomon Hill up top beyond the 3-point arc. He head-faked to get Adams in the air — in a cruel twist of fate, Adams broke his foot on the landing and is done for the rest of the season — and leaned in for about a 17-foot jumper. It missed.

Sean Miller

Sean Miller looks on as Michael Irving calls the technical. Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

So, yeah, there was plenty to talk about.

–Arizona lost an 11-point lead with 10:24 to go.

–Adams scored 18 points in the second half, lighting up Arizona as Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie did in the second half of UA losses this season.

–The Cats had a careless turnover when Adams stole the ball from Lyons, leading to a fast break, the fifth foul on center Kaleb Tarczewski and two free throws with 1:13 left.

The final possession wasn’t bad, but the shot didn’t fall.

But it’s hard not to focus on that moment with 4:37 left when Michael Irving made a T with his hands while Miller looked on, half pleading, half in sheer disbelief.

He said he did not get an explanation for the technical.

“They don’t talk to me,” Miller said.

“If I cuss and I’m out of control and I’ve been warned, shame on me. But when I say, ‘He touched the ball, he touched the ball’ … because quite frankly I thought the two of them could have maybe gotten together and explained that, in fact, he did touch the ball.

“That’s what I was hoping for. That technical right there is hard to swallow. When you lose by two and you gave them two and you’re the coach, you have to take that burden, and I’ve got that with me.”

It was Miller’s first technical foul of the season.

“I didn’t hear a curse word or anything from him,” Hill said. “I have heard him say things way worse than that. I don’t really blame coach.”

Blame too few stops late in the game. UCLA just had had too many offensive weapons.

Arizona unleashed Nick Johnson on point guard Larry Drew, who tortured UA in the first two meetings of the season, and had him to no points and four assist. Hill was on Shabazz Muhammad, who managed a mostly quiet 11 points.

Adams might have been the third priority, not because Arizona didn’t respect him, but because you have to pick your poison. And that’s not even yet considering the multi-talented Anderson or the shooting and versatility of the Wear twins.

“I want to give complete and total credit to UCLA,” Miller said.

But, dang, that technical continues to puzzle. And the timing couldn’t have been worse, helping fuel a run in which Adams scored 13 consecutive points for the Bruins.

Such a big call from the officials so late in a game … over, seemingly, so little.

“Yeah, really funny time,” Hill said, before adding, “I’m happy to not be playing in the Pac-12 anymore.”

It’s all NCAA Tournament games from here on out. No more Pac-12 refs. Arizona awaits its fate in Sunday’s selection show. By then they’ll have had to stop shaking their heads over UCLA’s comeback and that technical foul.

“Like (Miller) said, these refs are under great pressure,” Hill said.

“There are a lot of people here, a lot of officials here to really watch them, and watch what’s going on. I feel they broke under the pressure.”

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