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Sean Miller challenges Wildcats to improve ‘stupid’ foul rate, rebounding

Arizona head coach Sean Miller speaks during the Pac-12 NCAA college basketball media day in San Francisco, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller gave a scathing review of his team Thursday, focusing on rebounding struggles and fouling.

“We foul at almost an absurd rate,” Miller told reporters. “It’s stupid. We’re not a smart team when it comes to fouling.”

The Wildcats average 20.7 personal fouls per game, which is tied as the 299th-worst in the country. The only Pac-12 team that averages more is Utah with 21.6 through 12 games.

“We foul in the post, we foul on drives, we foul at the end of the clock, we foul 3-point shooters,” Miller said. “Some of it is the youth that we have on the court. Some of it is fundamentally we have to be better, smarter, hold people accountable more.”

That could be a precursor to a long game against ASU on Saturday. The Sun Devils commit fouls an average of 19.7 times per game, just one fewer per game than Arizona.

On Dec. 11, ASU and Prairie View combined for 56 fouls. The Sun Devils attempted 51 free throws and the Panthers had 33.

It sounds like Miller is issuing a challenge to his team, in particular his freshmen starters Zeke Nnaji (39 fouls, tied for most on team), Josh Green (28, third-most) and Nico Mannion (25 fouls, tied for fifth-most). Additionally, while Chase Jeter is not among the youths of the team, he has 39 fouls as well.

Miller also challenged the team on defensive rebounding.

“We have not done a good job of that. Sometimes it hurts you with key plays. You know, big second shots against your team in the second half. There is a wearing-down effect over a course of 40 minutes and we haven’t been on the winner’s side of that,” he said.

That could change against ASU. The status of primary power forward Romello White is up in the air due to a right ankle sprain. Outside White, ASU doesn’t have a dominant big man.

Meanwhile, Miller complimented Nnaji on rebounding while calling on the rest of his team to box out opponents better.

“I would say that Zeke Nnaji more than anyone has really started to improve the defensive rebounding,” Miller said. “But our guards have to rebound. Our reserves have to rebound, and the starting five’s gotta do a better job blocking out.”

The challenge: Boxing out is something anybody is able to do if they recognize the importance of it.

“Anybody can do it,” Miller said. “It’s not always fun to work on, it’s not always fun to talk about, but when you don’t defensive rebound, you foul more, you give up more back-breaking baskets that are one-foot shots … we’re subpar in that area and that has to improve.”

With those two thoughts in mind, his team will host ASU at McKale Center on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Catch the action at 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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