5. Arizona Wildcats (14-7, 5-3 Pac-12) LW: 3
Thus, with the 6-foot-10 junior out this past week with back spasms, we learned just how important his presence is in the Wildcats’ blowout losses to USC and UCLA.
Not only did UA record the two highest margins of defeat (-23, -21) of a Pac-12 weekend in the Sean Miller era, the ‘Cats continued a historic offensive low. A combined 30.4 percent from the field added to the team’s season percentage of 43.3, its worst since the program was part of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 1971-72.
Without Jeter, Arizona also couldn’t rely on rebounding to restart missed possessions. The Bruins and Trojans combined to out-board the Wildcats 98 to 69, often leaving Miller’s offense ‘one-and-done’ on several tries against zone defenses.
About the only bright spot was the play of freshman guard Brandon Williams, who averaged 13.5 points and 3.5 assists in the two losses. Besides him, Arizona lacked the necessary scoring and playmaking to jumpstart its offense.
Now 5-3 in league play, the Wildcats have taken a freefall from first to a tie for fourth in the conference standings. While Miller has done a commendable job of succeeding with less talent, he will have to rediscover a winning formula, with or without Jeter in the lineup.
This week, the Wildcats will travel to Tempe for Thursday’s rivalry matchup with Arizona State. The winner will pass the other for a top-four spot in the Pac-12 standings.