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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 3 Arizona welcomes dangerous, desperate Michigan to McKale Center

Tyler Baker

Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (23) drives during Arizona’s 86-68 win against Cal State Northridge during the EA Sports Maui Invitational opening round in McKale Center on Sunday. Hollis-Jefferson and the Wildcats take on Michigan on Saturday. 

Arizona men’s basketball faces a reeling Michigan team but the Wildcats are sure the Wolverines are a dangerous team nonetheless.

On Saturday at 3:25 p.m. on ESPN, No. 3 Arizona (9-0) faces Michigan (6-3) at home. While the Wolverines were recently ranked, they are coming off back-to-back home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan.

“They’ve lost a couple recent games, that happens, especially when you lose the talent that they’ve lost,” UA head coach Sean Miller said. “They’re going to hit their stride this year and be a really good team; I just don’t want it to happen on Saturday.”

Arizona beat the Wolverines 72-70 last year in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“That’s probably the worst-case scenario for us,” UA guard Gabe York said. “They’re coming in here hungry and they also have it in the back of their mind that we beat them at their place. With that alone, even if they won these last two games, that would be enough for them to try and come in here and get the W, but now those two losses, they need a big win to get back on the map and get back on track.”

Arizona is looking for its third 10-0 start in a row. The Wildcats have won 27 home games in a row and 36 straight regular-season non-conference games, the longest streak in the nation.

The Wildcats lead the all-time series 7-2 and Michigan lost in its last trip to McKale, 119-95 in the Fiesta Bowl Classic in 1993, which was around the time of the Fab Five.

“They have one thing on their minds: to get a [win] in McKale,” UA guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright said.

Michigan’s last three games were decided by a basket. First, UM beat Syracuse, 68-65, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, then lost 72-70 to NJIT and 45-42 to EMU.

Miller fears the Wolverines are desperate.

“The hungrier team I always believe has an advantage,” Miller said. “Michigan has a tremendous amount of pride, they have an excellent coach. They’ve been in Big Ten Championship Games, they’ve been in Final Four games, they expect to make the tournament and advance in the tournament and there’s guys in that program and in the coaching staff that have been in the winner’s circle for a long, long time.”

The Wolverines were national runners up in 2013 and made it to the Elite Eight last year. UM head coach John Beilein has won 707 games in his career.

“So you get hit with a couple early set backs, they’re not going to panic or self destruct, they are going to correct and get stronger,” Miller said. “We just don’t want it to be against us.”

As a team, Michigan is shooting 40.1 percent from beyond the arc and 19th in the country in 3-pointers made. Guard/forward Zak Irvin leads the Wolverines with 26 makes, guard Caris LeVert is second with 23, guard Derrick Walton Jr. has 11 and guard Spike Albrecht has 10.

“They shoot the ball really well,” UA guard Gabe York said. “They’re top-10 in the country in field goals made and that’s something that we got to get better in practice at.”

This is the second week in a row that the Wildcats face a big name opponent at home on ESPN on a Saturday afternoon.

“To have those match-ups here on the court at McKale is something that we don’t take lightly and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Miller said.

Saturday’s game is one of two for the Wildcats during finals. They also host Oakland on Tuesday.

“It’s difficult, but everyone in the country is going through it,” York said. “Coach knows what we’re going through and he’s going to give us the best chance to be successful both on and off the court.”


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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