Arizona head coach Sean Miller has repeated himself over and over for the past week. His No. 11-ranked Wildcats paid the price Wednesday for not listening.
The same woes on defense turned up at the Galen Center, and USC capitalized for the 89-78 stunner. But Miller foreshadowed eerily similar events following his team's win over Washington State last Saturday.
After the Cougars shot 52.2 percent in the second half and made a game of it despite a 22-point deficit, Miller said his players turned in the type of performance that could carry over if they were not careful.
"What happens is you move to the next game, and you're on the road - and if everything is OK but it really isn't OK - you just get drilled at USC," Miller said after the win. "I mean, it ain't even close - like you're down 10 at the half and they just roll you right out of L.A. And it started not in the USC game, it started in the Washington State game when we turned it off. It's so hard to turn it back on, effort-wise, when you turn it off.
"For us down the stretch, that's really where we're at. It's a quandary that we're in."
It does not get much closer than that.
Miller was just about spot-on with the halftime prediction. The Trojans led 42-32 with 1:21 to play in the first half. But UA showed its first sign of life on defense up to that point, cashing in on three steals and a block over the final 1:38 to turn the double-digit deficit into a 42-36 hole at the break.
But, again, like Miller said after that win over Wazzu, the 'Cats continued to pick and choose when to bring the intensity and focus on defense. USC opened the first 2:21 of the second half on a 9-2 run to take its largest lead of the night, 51-38.
"The danger of doing what we did in the second half against Washington State is, it's not as easy to turn it back on," Miller reiterated after the loss to the Trojans. "You have to be extremely talented to pick and choose how hard you play. … We're not."
And so, everything inevitably snowballed to the final buzzer. Even when Jordin Mayes' corner 3-pointer closed the gap to 60-56 with 12:20 to play, or when Trojans 7-2 center Omar Oraby fouled out in an 8-point game with 4:22 remaining, there was never that feeling that the score was ever really that close.
For every Arizona run, there was a USC response. And it was clear what the problem was to UA senior Solomon Hill.
"There's no effort on defense, there's no effort on defense," the forward said, shaking his head.
"It has to be every play, it can't be a couple plays and take a break because that's when a guy can get going."
Added fellow senior Kevin Parrom: "We have to play hard the whole entire game."
But that message is no different than the one Miller tried to deliver five days ago. Only time will tell if they choose to listen before it is too late - and that time is running out fast with two regular-season game to play.