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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 8 Arizona MBB set for road matchups against Utah and Colorado

UAs+Oumar+Ballo+%2811%29+celebrates+after+hitting+his+thousandth+career+point+in+the+Wildcats+game+against+Utah+University+on+Jan.+6.+The+game+ended+in+a+92-73+point+win+for+UA.
Olivia Malone
UA’s Oumar Ballo (11) celebrates after hitting his thousandth career point in the Wildcats’ game against Utah University on Jan. 6. The game ended in a 92-73 point win for UA.

The No. 8 Arizona men’s basketball team is back on the road as they face the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Thursday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. and the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. The Wildcats (17-5, 8-3 Pac-12) are a .500 road team this season, but are just 1-3 over their last four matchups. Meanwhile, both Utah (15-7, 6-5 Pac-12) and Colorado (15-7, 6-5 Pac-12) are undefeated on their home courts, with a combined record of 24-0.

Game 1: Utah – Thursday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m.

History vs. Utah:

This Thursday marks the 69th meeting between the two programs, with Arizona leading the series 37-31. However, the Wildcats are 11-22 on the road against the Utes and 1-3 over their last four trips to Salt Lake City. Arizona secured a comfortable 92-73 win against Utah earlier this season when the two teams met in McKale Center on Jan. 6.

Utah players to watch:

Utah is led by third-year head coach Craig Smith, who boasts a 43-42 record with the team. The Utes opened the season 11-3, their best start since 2015. Despite Utah’s impressive start to the season, they have struggled lately, winning only four out of their last nine games, and three of their five losses have been by a margin of over 20 points.

Branden Carlson:

The fifth-year senior has been excellent all season for the Utes. Carlson stands out as the team’s top performer, dominating in scoring, rebounding, and blocks with an average of 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. However, Carlson is averaging only seven points and four rebounds per game over the last two games, behind an inefficient 32% from the field.

Gabe Madsen:

Madsen ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 13 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He has the ability to put up a strong scoring performance, but inconsistencies have plagued him throughout the season. In just the last two games, Madsen scored a season-low two points against the University of Washington before scoring a season-high 21 points against Colorado last Sunday.

Deivon Smith:

Smith is the team’s third-highest scorer, maintaining an average of 11.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Since his introduction to the rotation in December, he’s become a pivotal contributor to Utah’s offensive efforts. Over the past four games, Smith’s performance has seen a notable uptick, with averages of 16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game.

Game 2: Colorado – Saturday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m.

History vs. Colorado:

Saturday’s matchup will be the 39th meeting between the two programs. The Wildcats hold a 23-15 lead in the series, including a three-game winning streak. When the two teams met last month in McKale Center, Arizona steamrolled over Colorado 97-50, its largest conference victory since 1997. However, the Wildcats have struggled on the road against the Buffs, with an abysmal 2-11 record in Boulder. Arizona is 0-5 since their last road victory against Colorado on Feb. 26, 2015.

Colorado players to watch:

Tad Boyle is currently in his 14th season as Colorado’s head coach. During his tenure, he has led the team to five NCAA Tournaments and has achieved nine seasons with 20 or more wins, boasting a 287-179 record. The Buffs, currently riding a two-game losing streak, are 4-5 since opening the season 11-2, with four of their five losses coming by single digits.

KJ Simpson:

The junior guard has been fantastic all season for the Buffaloes, leading the team in scoring, assists and steals. Simpson averages 19.5 points, 4.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Over Colorado’s last two games, Simpson is averaging 25 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, compared to only 14.5 points per game over the previous two.

Tristan Da Silva:

The senior forward ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 15.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Da Silva has reached double figures in scoring in all but one game this season. Da Silva did not play during Colorado’s blowout loss against the Wildcats due to an ankle injury. However, since returning from the injury, he has averaged 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Eddie Lampkin Jr.:

Lampkin is averaging 10.3 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game. The senior spent his previous three seasons at TCU before transferring to Colorado. He has recorded seven double-doubles this season, overcoming early struggles to find his stride. Lampkin has reached double figures in scoring in six of Colorado’s last seven games while averaging 13 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Wildcats to watch:

Arizona’s potent offense is among the strongest in college basketball, scoring an average of 89 points per game, which ranks second in the country. According to Kenpom, Arizona’s offense ranks fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency, while its defense ranks 12th, placing them fourth overall.

Caleb Love:

Love, the former University of North Carolina Tar Heel, has been the star of the Arizona offense. He is averaging a team-high 18.9 points and five rebounds per game, both of which are career highs. Since the start of conference play, the senior is averaging 21.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. After scoring a career-high 36 points against the University of Oregon on Jan. 27, Love recorded back-to-back under 20-point scoring performances for the first time since early December.

Oumar Ballo:

The senior is averaging 13 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Arizona’s big man had an inconsistent January, averaging 10.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, but he failed to reach double figures three times. However, Ballo has found his rhythm lately, averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds per game behind an efficient 80% from the field over Arizona’s last two games.

KJ Lewis:

The freshman guard is averaging 6.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Despite this, Lewis is playing some of his best basketball, averaging 13 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in February. Last weekend, Lewis scored a career-high 14 points against the University of California, Berkeley before following up with a 12-point performance against Stanford University. Lewis played a vital role in Arizona’s comeback win over the Cardinal, playing for nearly the entire second half.


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