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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona men’s basketball look to right ship against Colorado

Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildca

Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller directs his team during Arizona’s 73-49 win against ASU in McKale Center on Jan. 4. After losing two of their last four games, Miller and the Wildcats have a chance to right the ship against Colorado today.

Fresh off a surprising road loss to Oregon State, the No. 10 Arizona men’s basketball team has another competitive team on the schedule. The Wildcats host the always pesky Colorado Buffaloes (9-6, 2-1) in the friendly confines of McKale Center tonight. 

In their last game, the Buffaloes suffered a crushing 74-49 defeat at the hands of the Utah Utes. Colorado’s top-three scorers all performed below their season averages, including second-leading scorer Josh Scott scoring just three points and third-leading scorer Xavier Johnson failing to score at all.

Sean Miller and company would do well to heed that uncharacteristic performance and take these Buffaloes seriously come tip time on Thursday, especially considering how beatable the Wildcats look at the moment. 

Despite averaging 75.1 points per game, Arizona has reached that plateau once over the past five games. The most recent game saw the UA score just 21 points at halftime and finish with 56 points in a disappointing loss. If Miller and the Wildcats are to get back on track, the team needs to break its streak of starting out poorly. 

That trend was reversed in the first conference road game against Oregon, when the Wildcats opened up on a 12-4 and ended with an 80-62 victory. Much of the same will be required against Colorado. 

The aforementioned top-three scorers for Colorado have torched the UA in the past. Just last year, they combined for 47 of the team’s 57 points in the first matchup of the season and 33 of the team’s 61 points in the second matchup of the season. 

Specifically, Scott was a thorn in the sides of Arizona players. He ended the regular season matchups averaging 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds against the Wildcats. His energy and ability to grab offensive boards is a key reason why the Buffaloes have been so pesky against Arizona over the past couple years.

Containing Scott will go a long way to securing an Arizona victory, not to mention helping out UA big men Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley in their battle to win the interior scoring margin — an area the UA as a whole could use improvement in. 

Speaking of Tarczewski and Ashley, the duo struggled mightily against Oregon State on Sunday, combining to go 3-11 from the field for nine points and three rebounds. Those are the kind of stats one could expect on a bad day from one of them, let alone both. Tarczewski was particularly ineffective against the Beavers, as the junior who averages 5.3 rebounds per game, recorded zero boards.

In addition to his lack of a rebounding presence, Tarczewski failed to protect the paint like he had been doing all season. A few days after the loss, Miller talked on how poorly the defensive performance was against the Beavers. If Arizona is to get a different result from the Colorado game, beefing up the defense would do wonders. 

As the venerable Bill Walton would say with his usual air of wispy confidence: It’s the Buffaloes and Wildcats in the beautiful Sonoran Desert! What more could you ask?


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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