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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona hoops takes on Gonzaga in key non-conference showdown

Gordon+Bates+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0AUniversity+of+Arizona+Mens+Basketball+versus+Northern+Arizona+University+at+McKale+Center+in+Tucson+Arizona+on+Saturday+December+3+2011.
Zachary Vito / Daily Wildcat
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona Mens Basketball versus Northern Arizona University at McKale Center in Tucson Arizona on Saturday December 3 2011.

The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team has had all week to prepare for the Gonzaga Bulldogs and center Robert Sacre in its final regular season non-conference road game of the season.

The Wildcats (7-3) take on the Bulldogs today at 2 p.m. in Seattle. The meeting will be played at KeyArena, about 283 miles from Gonzaga’s campus in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga has posted an 8-5 record in games played at KeyArena.

Sacre, a redshirt senior, will be the biggest presence on the court, a 7-footer weighing 260 pounds. He shoots 50 percent from the floor and averages 16.5 points per game. Arizona head coach Sean Miller said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Sacre chosen in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft.

“Sacre causes problems,” Miller said. “It starts with him and then they have their normal, very intelligent, well-coached, disciplined team. They have a bench that contributes to what they do and they’re just a really good team.”

Gonzaga (6-2) shoots nearly 45 percent from the floor, 39 percent from 3-point range and almost 70 percent from the free throw line.

The Bulldogs average three players in double figures, with Kevin Pangos’ 13.4 average and Elias Harris’ 12 points per game to go along with Sacre’s contribution. Arizona has four players in double figures led by junior Solomon Hill’s 11.7 points per game. Senior Kyle Fogg follows with an 11.5 average.

With senior Jesse Perry, at 6-foot-7 and 217 pounds, seeing most of the time at center this season, Sacre has potential to cause problems inside for the Wildcats because of his size. In the Wildcats’ week off, Miller said they have focused on post defense and are working on improving Arizona’s strengths.

“The spotlight’s clearly on ourselves and at the same time respecting the week of preparation against a big game like Gonzaga there are things that we’re doing to make ourselves better,” Miller said.

Miller said there would be a challenge to keep Arizona out of foul trouble against Sacre and that he’d like to get freshman center Angelo Chol — who will size up better against Sacre in terms of height at 6-foot-9 — about 15 minutes per game to help Perry at center. Senior Alex Jacobson could also see time against Gonzaga because of the foul trouble that Sacre can create, Miller said. Jacobson hasn’t seen time since Arizona’s loss against Mississippi State in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 18.

Perry said he’s looking to get a lot of help from his teammates with the aggressive post defense the Wildcats will need to contain Sacre.

“Big guys inside,” Perry said. “Every position is big; it’s kind of difficult for us because a lot of guys have to change roles like myself. I’m playing the 5, (Solomon Hill) playing the 4, Kyle Fogg plays the 3 sometimes. Staying in front of the post, once they do throw the ball over my head, my teammates come help me.”

The Wildcats have faced a competitive non-conference schedule this season. They’ll host Oakland University and Bryant University next week before tipping off Pac-12 Conference play against ASU on Dec. 31 in McKale Center. For a high profile, nationally televised game — Arizona’s sixth of the season — Miller said playing at Gonzaga would be an opportunity the Wildcats couldn’t afford to miss out on.

“For us it’s a matter of going up there and playing with great effort and energy knowing we have to play an excellent game,” Miller said, “and relishing the opportunity to play against a team and a program like Gonzaga.”

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