Earlier this week I ranted against Sean Miller and why I don't like him. Last night saw part of the reason but also part of the reason why he may be a good coach*. There is one stat that sums up the game, from the ucla.edu story:
Arizona took advantage of 31 fouls committed by UCLA, making 29 of 45 free throw attempts. The Bruins shot 75 percent from the line, making 12 of 16 free throws.
Fact of the matter was UCLA beat the Arizona Wildcats last night but UCLA did not beat the Arizona Wildcats and the SPTR. The SPTRs were having one of their finest moments and earning their Bruins Nation initials. I guess you can give credit to Miller who was working the referees all game as they completely caved to his every desire in the second half. Steve Alford post game statement is dripping with appropriate irony:
After the game, UCLA Coach Steve Alford said just about everything shy of directly criticizing the officiating crew. His argument: UCLA committed 31 fouls, to Arizona's 19. That tied UCLA's season high, set in a double-overtime loss to Washington in January.
"We're not going to win a game, 45-16," Alford said. "It was dominance at the free-throw line."
Alford spoke for 4 minutes 31 seconds after the game. Almost all of that time was spent pondering those foul numbers.
"I'll have to watch the tape and see if we fouled 31 times, I guess," he said.
"Hopefully we won't foul as much as the next one," he said, dryly.
The fact of the matter was Steve Alford out coached* Miller and the Bruins outplayed the Wildcats. The asterisk is the most important part. You get some calls at home and to his "credit" Miller (even though he was warned about going on the court and almost got a technical) worked the referees to perfection. Kudos to Miller, I guess, for good coaching but I don't have to like it.
For Steve Alford had a game plan. Double down low, work the ball to Isaac who had the weakest defender, etc. He also broke his dreaded hockey line substitutions and went to Parker and Bolden who worked very well together.
Through one half, it looked good for UCLA. The Bruins (13-11, 4-7 Pac-12) led by 10 points and the Wildcats (20-5, 8-4) were shooting less than 30 percent from the field. Arizona had trouble stopping Isaac Hamilton on the perimeter - the junior guard scored 15 of his 24 points before the break - and the Bruins repeatedly got the ball inside Arizona's slow-rotating defense for easy baskets at the rim.
The first half showed why this UCLA team is a very good matchup against Arizona.
Arizona â which had lost just one of its last 51 games at the McKale Center â didn't play the sort of up-tempo style that has been so troublesome for the Bruins this season. Averaging 69.1 possessions per 40 minutes, the Wildcats ranked seventh in the Pac-12 and 176th nationally.
That may have been part of the reason they converted just 29.6 percent from the field in the first half, enduring a streak of nine straight missed shots. Take out Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first five minutes, and the Wildcats returned to their locker room at a miserable 5-of-23 clip.
Miller is a bad offensive coach but not a bad coach. He worked the refs and in the second half Arizona's offense was throw the ball at the hoop and try to get a foul. My personal favorite was when Tony Parker with inside position was shoved in the back by Kaleb and Tony got called for the foul on a rebound. It worked Arizona won.
The Bruins still led by 10 points as late as the 16:47 mark, but then missed six of their next seven shots as Arizona climbed back into the game with six straight points from freshman Allonzo Trier, who finished with 15.
Arizona took its first lead of the game at the 7:30 mark, but it still wasn't over yet. UCLA fought, and led 70-69 on a three-point play from Hamilton with 3:23 to go.
By then, though, the Bruins were already doomed - big men Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh had fouled out within 42 seconds of each other. The Pac-12's leading offensive rebounders checked out of the game at the 6:37 and 5:55 marks, respectively, with a combined three offensive rebounds.
This is why you can't lose games like to WSU on the road and have a chance in the PAC 12. So Steve Alford was out coached but I think the PAC 12 needs to think if they want to reward Miller's sort of coaching.