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Sean Miller stands by comments, adds urgency to team’s effort level

Arizona head coach Sean Miller made headlines after the team’s loss Saturday to Colorado, questioning what he has to do as a coach to get the most out of his players.

On Monday, Miller stood by his comments.

“No, I really feel that way,” he said. “I think this is a big moment in our season.”

Arizona’s loss to Colorado showed how far the Wildcats have to come defensively, as they allowed the Buffaloes to shoot 64.3 percent in the first half.

Miller referenced in the past two seasons that his team’s defenses have been in the top-30, and even those numbers upset him and wanted them to be closer to the top-10. Now, the team is somewhere in the top-75.

“We have to be able to establish high effort,” he said, giving Colorado lots of credit, but saying his point was the team’s effort and defense overall is “falling.”

Miller’s teams in Tucson have always been about establishing an identity defensively, and the troubling development is that his team has made little to no progress in that regard in a season when many picked them to make the Final Four.

Luckily for Miller, his team can rebound at home and he says it’s not an unfixable problem.

“It’s so much more about where we go from here,” he said.

It starts against Oregon State (10-6) on Thursday. The Beavers are 2-1 in conference play, coming off a 76-64 win over Oregon and having handily beaten Colorado 76-57 the week prior.

Miller called them a “much-improved team,” and that has to do with a 2015 recruiting class that has seen three 247 Sports four-star recruits improve year after year.

They are led by one of the better players in the conference and one of those recruits, 6-foot-8 redshirt sophomore forward Tres Tinkle, who is averaging 18.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists all while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from 3-point range.

Junior guard Stephen Thompson Jr. also adds 16.5 points per game, making the Beavers one of three teams in the conference to have two players averaging at least 16.5 points per game, joining Arizona and Arizona State.

The last is junior forward Drew Eubanks, an interior presence shooting 66.7 percent from the field for 13.8 points a game.

“They’re physical, they play hard and they have a lot of confidence right now,” Miller said of the Beavers.

Following Oregon State will be Oregon on Saturday, who is 11-5 this season and 1-2 in conference play.

Surprisingly for those who have followed Pac-12 basketball the last few years, the Ducks lack the individual talent the Beavers have, but they are known for challenging the Wildcats year after year.

“Oregon is always dangerous,” Miller said. “Always. They play us tough and they’re only going to get better as the year goes on.”

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