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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Take two

Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat

It was a question of effort and focus.

Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller felt like his team had regressed in its loss to Oregon State Saturday, a truth so frustrating that he called it the lowest point during his time in college basketball.

When the Wildcats (13-12, 7-6 Pacific 10 Conference) face the ASU Sun Devils (18-8, 8-5) in McKale Center this Sunday at 3:30 p.m., they will answer two questions: Will they recover from their 63-55 loss to the Beavers and will they be able to remain focused if the ball doesn’t roll their way against ASU?

“”Over 40 minutes, as a team, you’ve got to be able to deal with those times in a game when you miss shots,”” Miller said. “”You’re going to have those peaks and valleys offensively against (ASU). While those valleys happen, can you continue to be tough-minded?””

That focus was lost against Oregon State and its deliberate zone defense. It’s an issue that has Miller worried against a stingy ASU team.

“”If there’s a silver lining in last weekend,”” he said, “”did we learn and are we able to improve?””

The Sun Devils fell to Arizona 77-58 in Tempe earlier in the year, snapping ASU’s five-game winning streak against the Wildcats.

With ASU coming off a sweep of the Oregon schools in two 10-point victories, Arizona won’t hold its explosive second half in the rivals’ first meeting too high above its heads. The Wildcats came out sluggishly during the first half, then exploded for 52 points in the second, but they don’t expect to catch the Sun Devils off-guard again.

“”That can’t happen this game,”” junior Jamelle Horne said. “”We don’t even want the game to be close.

“”It was a great environment in Tempe,”” he added. “”Probably midway through that second half, it was so quiet — I’ve never heard it like that in Tempe.””

This time, the Wildcats will have the McKale Center crowd behind them as they face their third zone defense-oriented team in a row. Unlike the Beavers, who switch between a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 zone, ASU will play with the same match-up zone defense throughout.

“”They’re very sound with what they do, they’re on the same page,”” Miller said, crediting ASU head coach Herb Sendek for instilling ceaseless effort in his Sun Devil team. “”They’re going to win with very, very good half-court defense.””

Another focus for the Wildcats is containing the Sun Devils’ 3-point shooting, which Miller said was a catalyst for past ASU wins. Five Sun Devil players shoot at least 37 percent from beyond the arc.

But focusing on themselves is the biggest key for the Wildcats, especially after the humbling loss to Oregon State.

Against the Beavers, Arizona struggled to play a slower-paced, grind-it-out style of basketball. When they couldn’t score, which was partially due to poor shooting from key contributors, the Wildcats began forcing shots.

And when the forced shots didn’t fall, those struggles snowballed into poor defense and frustration.

Against ASU, Miller would simply like to see his old team return — the one that had developed maturity and resiliency to go with talent. From the players’ perspective, though, the the answer is simple.

“”I just think effort was the most evident thing we needed,”” Horne said of the loss to the Beavers. “”I think there’s going to be a lot more fire.””

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