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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona has to improve in order to beat Buffs

Average teams can’t have an “on/off” switch.

Mediocre Pac-12 squads don’t have the right to take possessions off. Players aren’t going to get ejected every night to light a fire under a lifeless team.

That’s exactly what the Wildcats were before Solomon Hill was ejected on Thursday night against Utah — lifeless.

While a five-point halftime lead on the road in conference play doesn’t look bad, Arizona was playing Utah. The same Utah team that just dismissed its best player — and arguably its only legitimate one— in Josh Watkins. The same Utah team that will most likely battle ASU for the Sacko Bowl as the Pac-12’s worst, and most embarrassing, team.

The end result looks fine. Arizona exploded in the second half without its best player to defeat Utah 77-51. But the first half was ugly.

The Wildcats mopped the floor with uninspiring play, and the turnovers were soon to follow. Arizona turned the ball over six times in the first half against a Utes team that’s forced the fewest turnovers in the Pac-12.

Arizona isn’t talented enough to let bad opponents hang around and steal it at the end. The Wildcats don’t have a superstar that can take over a game and lead his team to victory.

Arizona has a small margin for error, and against legitimate teams, if the Wildcats don’t bring it for 40 minutes, they’ll get burned.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their Saturday afternoon opponent currently resides in that aforementioned “good” category.

The Buffs are fresh off of a 69-54 win over ASU in a game where they jumped out to a 25-8 lead, something Arizona has been unable to do. Colorado led 31-15 and coasted the rest of the way.

If Arizona plays like it did in the first half against Utah, Colorado will do the exact same thing to the Wildcats early on.

Colorado, not historically known for its hoops prowess, has taken the conference by storm this season. Sure, the Buffs still haven’t played a ranked team, but they’re athletic, seasoned and well on their way to a breakout season.

The Wildcats will have their hands full with senior guards Carlon Brown and Nate Tomlinson as well as double-double machine Andre Roberson.

Arizona bigs have to be on poster alert after Roberson absolutely smashed on 7-foot-2 ASU center Jordan Bachynski.

The Buffs are the real deal, or at least as real as a middle of the road Pac-12 squad can be. They’re 10-1 in the Coors Events Center this season, making Arizona’s must-win game that much more difficult.

Both teams are 4-2 in the Pac-12 and need a win to sneak up the totem pole and better their NCAA Tournament resumes. But if Arizona hits the snooze button for too long as it did against Utah, the Wildcats could find themselves on the couch in March.

— Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or via Twitter @WildcatHoops.

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