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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona men’s basketball ‘focused’ on Buffaloes

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Arizona men’s basketball forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (23) defends Colorado guard Askia Booker (0) during Arizona’s 68-54 victory over Colorado on Jan. 15 in McKale Center. Hollis-Jefferson will likely be tasked with guarding Booker again as the Wildcats take on Colorado today.

The top-two teams in the Pac-12 Conference face off on Saturday, but Arizona men’s basketball must first travel to an unfriendly venue for a Colorado team that’s finally at full strength.

No. 7 Arizona (24-3, 12-2 Pac-12) plays at Colorado (12-14, 5-9) tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN to kick off its Rocky Mountain road trip.

Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller said the Wildcats will be focused on Colorado and not Saturday’s de facto Pac-12 championship game on Saturday at No. 13 Utah.

Arizona won 88-61 in Boulder, Colo., last year, but lost there in 2013 and 2012 after Colorado joined the then Pac-10.

“I don’t really think that’s a worry for us, really, because of our history with Colorado,” Miller said. “They’ve always been such a great team and, in fairness to them, there hasn’t been a team that’s played maybe this decimated by injuries more than Colorado has.”

Arizona has won five in a row in the series, but is 2-7 against the Buffaloes in Boulder, Colo. The Wildcats beat Colorado 68-54 in January, but the Buffaloes were without forward Josh Scott and guard/forward Xavier Johnson.

When asked how they will not look ahead to the Utah game, Arizona forward Brandon Ashley said the Wildcats won’t underestimate another team.

“It’s simple: We’ve lost three games this year, all of them have been on the road and each of them have been against teams where we shouldn’t have necessarily lost those games,” Ashley said. “It’s that simple; you just got to focus on every game.”

Arizona has lost to RPI No. 102 UNLV, RPI No. 95 Oregon State and RPI No. 86 ASU, all on the road. Colorado is 127th in the RPI.

“Obviously in those games that we lost, we kind of looked past the opponent, and as you can see, it ended in a loss for us,” Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. “So we just have to focus on the now, on the present, and just take it day by day and get better each day and worry about our first game.”

Miller said that it’s unfair to judge Colorado by its record, because the team that was picked to finish third in the Pac-12 hasn’t been at full strength until now.

“The good news for Colorado, and maybe the bad news for everybody else, is that this is really the first time that they’ve had a great stretch of health where they’ve had their entire team,” Miller said.

Scott, who averages 12.7 points per game and 7.7 rebounds, is a candidate for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award for the best center in the nation.

Johnson is 11th in the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage, 12th in defensive rebounds, 17th in rebounding and 27th in scoring.

The last time the Wildcats played CU, guard Askia Booker scored a career-high 30 points.

“That’s a big challenge, but I’m sure our team’s ready for it,” Hollis-Jefferson said when asked about stopping Booker. “We’ll be a lot more focused. With that being said, we don’t want that feeling again, for an individual guy to do that to us. It’s kinda embarrassing on the defensive end.”

Colorado is 70-13 at the Coors Events Center under head coach Tad Boyle. Arizona is 6-3 in true road games this season and CU is 10-4 at home.

The Colorado/Utah road trip is the only Pac-12 road swing to feature games in different states and at high altitudes.

“Salt Lake City and Boulder are both great towns,” Miller said. “They have tremendous home court venues, and it’s exciting to play there, but it’s difficult. They represent two great home courts.”

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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