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LAS VEGAS — Like a pot of water simmering on a stove, Sean Miller's anger slowly rose to a boil.
The more the Arizona coach spoke about his technical foul during the final five minutes of the Wildcats' 66-64 Pac-12 semifinal loss to UCLA, the more furious Miller became that the call provided the Bruins two all-important points.
Referees assessed the technical to Miller during Friday night's game when he disputed a double dribble called on Mark Lyons for losing control of the ball before re-gathering possession.
It was Miller's contention that UCLA's Jordan Adams knocked the ball away, which would have negated the double dribble call and let Arizona to keep possession up two with 4:37 to play. TV replays seemed to show Miller was correct that Adams swiped at the ball, but UCLA instead got possession and two technical foul shots, both of which Adams hit to tie the score at 56.
"I told our team after the game, that's all completely on me," Miller began unprompted in the opening minute of his postgame news conference. "If you're the coach of the team and you get a technical in that situation, that's completely unacceptable. They made both free throws, hence the difference in the game.
"That's a hard one, man, when you work August, September, October, November, December, January, February," Miller continued, before pointing at senior Solomon Hill to his right at the podium. "My man over here? He's never coming back here again.
"It's just difficult, man, when you invest hundreds of hours, in Solomon's case, thousands of hours. If I cuss, and I'm out of control and I've been warned, then shame on me. But when I say, 'He touched the ball, he touched the ball,' because quite frankly I thought two of them maybe could have gotten together and say, 'Maybe 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 got that with me."
Miller's technical foul added to Arizona's frustration after a third loss to UCLA in the past two months. The Wildcats led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but they let UCLA freshman Jordan Adams spark a late comeback.
Though Arizona still had plenty of chances to overcome the gift two points considering the game was tied with almost five minutes to go, Miller is certainly correct that the call was a big one in a game that tight. Furthermore, reporters who witnessed the exchange that led to the technical confirmed that Miller was the victim of a quick whistle.
At the end of the press conference, a reporter asked Miller and Hill what they learned from the loss.
"You've got to stay in the coaching box," a sarcastic Miller deadpanned. "And you've got to be real, real careful as the coach what you say. That's what I've learned."
Then after Hill answered the question in a more earnest fashion, Miller hilariously stated the obvious.
"You can see what a great leader Solomon is," he said. "He's much more poised than me right now."
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