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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Hoops set for biggest challenge of season

Janice Biancavilla
Janice Biancavilla/ Daily Wildcat Arizona Wildcats defeat NAU 53-39 on Dec. 3 at McKale Center. Solomon Hill 44

Before the 2011 season started, Arizona head coach Sean Miller was clear about what he wanted his team to look like.

He said he’d prefer that it be an all-around team, with as many as five players averaging double-digit scoring. Even though it didn’t appear to have a player that’s clearly its best, Arizona would have somebody different step up each night.

He’ll get a good look at that team tonight at 5 p.m., when Arizona (6-2) takes to the road for a nationally televised showdown with a top-15 team.

The catch? It’s No. 12 Florida that has the makings of Miller’s dream team.

The Gators (5-2) have five players averaging double-digit scoring, and a sixth averaging 9.6 points per game. UF head coach Billy Donovan opts to go with a 10-man rotation on most nights, something that’s made easier by his team’s depth at guard.

Florida guards Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal, Erving Walker and Mike Rosario are the Gators’ top scorers, and they combine to score almost 68 percent of the team’s points. The foursome also combines to dish out 11.5 assists per game.

“We won’t play against a better core group of guards,” Miller said. “That’s four different guards that can score and make plays. They have a lot of fire in the backcourt. I think our defense is really going to be tested.”

Tonight’s game will be the first real test for an Arizona team that ranks in the top half of NCAA Division I in every defensive category. The Wildcats allow opponents to shoot 41.2 percent from the field, which ranks them 136th out of 338 teams, and 29.2 percent from 3-point range, ranking them 60th in the country.

But Florida brings a prolific offense to the table, ranking fourth in the nation in points per game and 11th in assists per game. The Gators also rank 30th in field goal percentage at 48.4 percent.

“Right now they have maybe the most efficient offense in the country,” Miller said.

Florida’s only two losses this season have come against teams in ranked in the top 3. The Gators lost to No. 2 Ohio State by seven on Nov. 15 and lost to No. 3 Syracuse by four on Friday.

“Most of our guys watched that game,” junior forward Solomon Hill said. “They competed with Syracuse, and Syracuse is a big team. They like the outside shot but I don’t see why we can’t be in a chance to win the game at the end.”

The Wildcats and Gators like to play similar styles of basketball — getting up and down the court on fast break opportunities, something that leads to higher-scoring games. It’s also something that Hill said has him excited to take on Florida.

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