Arizona basketball looks to bounce back against Texas Southern, Zags

Arizona+forward+Lauri+Markkanen+%2810%29+dunks+ahead+of+CSU+Bakersfield+forward+Matt+Smith+%280%29+against+CSU+Bakersfield+in+McKale+Center+on+Tuesday%2C+Nov.+15.+The+Wildcats+are+up+44-26+at+halftime.

Alex McIntyre

Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen (10) dunks ahead of CSU Bakersfield forward Matt Smith (0) against CSU Bakersfield in McKale Center on Tuesday, Nov. 15. The Wildcats are up 44-26 at halftime.

Christopher Deak






Arizona basketball heads into its game against Texas Southern Wednesday after falling all the way to No. 16 in the latest AP poll. After a loss to Butler in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational, the Wildcats are still struggling to find their identity and with the continued absence of Allonzo Trier they are looking for their “go-to” crunch time scorer.

Arizona has excelled in not turning the ball over this season, but committed 16 turnovers in the loss to Butler. Seven of Arizona’s fouls were offensive fouls committed by Arizona, and head coach Sean Miller sees what he calls the “full speed cross body block” as a developing trend in college basketball. Miller is talking about when a defender is able to sprint across the floor and draw a charge against an offensive ball handler.

“The full speed cross body block, is something that is one heck of a thing,” said Miller. “If you can run 1000 mph, lunge at the dribbler, fall down and get a charge, that’s something we’re going to do on every possession. That’s going to ruin the game of college basketball.”

An offensive foul is one of the best plays a defense can make. Besides drawing a foul on the opposing player, it causes the offense to turn over the ball and lose a possession.

“Butler’s ability to get offensive fouls on Arizona was as big of a reason as we lost the game as any other,” said Miller.

Sitting back and evaluating for what it’s worth, the loss to Butler was not the worst thing that could have happened to the Wildcats. The Bulldogs are no slouch and they went from unranked to just two spots behind the Wildcats at No. 18. The Bulldogs matched Arizona’s talented youth with four returning starters and experience beat out talent last Friday night.

The Wildcats match up with Texas Southern Wednesday and Gonzaga Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles at the Staples Center.

The Wildcats faced Texas Southern two years ago in the first round of the NCAA tournament winning 93-72. The Tigers again looked prime to play in the NCAA tournament this season and will present a real challenge for Arizona’s big men down low. Redshirt sophomore forward Derrick Griffin is a force to be reckoned with as a rebounder and Miller is impressed with what he has seen on film from Griffin and the Tigers as a whole.

“They have an outstanding frontcourt; they have one of the best athletes that I’ve seen in Griffin who plays the five or the four for them,” said Miller. “Looking at his offensive rebounding, I’ve never seen that many offensive rebounds on a stat sheet through six games.”

It could be a trap game for the Wildcats. To go from No. 8 to No. 16 is quite the fall and the Wildcats will be hungry to move back up in the rankings. They can possibly jump right back in to the top 10 with a victory over the No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs on Saturday.

It marks the third straight year the programs have faced each other and it has become a blow-for-blow out of conference matchup on the west coast. It is a matchup Miller said the Wildcats will continue to schedule as it presents a huge early season opportunity every year for both programs.

“They’re one of the best programs in college basketball,” said Miller. “To have the opportunity year in and year out to play against them in a true away game, true home game, now neutral [site] it makes a lot of sense [to keep playing them]. You have to admire every single thing about their program. They’re very, very well coached.”

The potential for a trap game against Texas Southern is something Miller says he isn’t worried about.

“We’ve been in one possession game with Chico State, we’ve been in a one possession game with Santa Clara, we’ve been in a one possession game against Bakersfield, I think we were in a one possession game in the Red-Blue game,” said Miller. “We gotta fight like crazy to win, and were playing a very good team in Texas Southern.”

Arizona faces Texas Southern Wednesday at 7 p.m. and will face the Bulldogs in the Staples Center on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN.