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The Daily Wildcat

 

Miller, Alkins talk about playing ASU Saturday

Arizona+Head+Coach+Sean+Miller+looks+baffled+after+a+called+foul.
Simon Asher
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller looks baffled after a called foul.

For No. 17 ranked Arizona Men’s basketball, one of the biggest games of the year comes in the first conference game of the season, as undefeated in-state rival and No. 3 ranked Arizona State comes down to Tucson Saturday for a high powered duel in the desert.

Here are the most interesting things the Arizona Wildcats said during Thursday’s media availability.

Sophomore guard Rawle Alkins said he never expected ASU to be as good as they are this year.

“To be honest, no,” Alkins said. “That’s why the game is on Pac-12 and not an ESPN game.”

Arizona head coach Sean Miller called ASU the “heavy favorites” to win the Pac-12 Conference and said they look like a team that could win the national championship. 

“They have one of those offenses that you don’t often times see,” Miller said. “They are the furthest thing from just this small team that shoots three’s, they really are efficient and they get to the foul line at a very high level.”

Miller talked about ASU’s presence inside, he said 6’8” 235 lb redshirt sophomore Romello White is one of the most overlooked players on the team. He is a guy that gives them a inside presence, by rebounding, scoring and blocking shots, that compliments their guards ability to shoot from the perimeter. 

Behind senior guard Tra Holder’s 21 points-per-game, Arizona State has five players that average over 10 points-per-game. Arizona will have to bring a solid defensive performance to combat ASU’s offensive depth if they want a chance to win. 

Alkins said he feels like Arizona is starting to play better defensively and said they are starting to take it personally. Despite Alkins optimism, Miller said he does not feel like Arizona is in a good place defensively to guard a team like ASU. 

“No, it’s a big problem.” Miller said. “I don’t care who you have defensively, no-one has really been able to keep them off the free throw line and stop them in transition.” 

The responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Arizona’s starting guards, namely Allonzo Trier, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Rawle Alkins, to guard Arizona States front court, but Miller said the bench has to be able to defend. 

“Guys that come in off the bench, they have to be able to defend, they have to be responsible,” Miller said. “You really have to understand that this is a very difficult challenge to keep them from having that big night offensively like they’ve had throughout the season.”

Arizona State went undefeated through non-conference play. They come to the Mckale Center with a 12-0 record and several big wins on their resume, such as a 16-point win to give now sixth ranked Xavier its only loss of the season. And then more notably, the Devils pulled off a road upset when they beat No. 2 Kansas 95-85 in Allen Fieldhouse. 

“They have earned the right to be the No. 3 team in the country,” Miller said. “That’s great for them, and we are playing in a game here on Saturday with great meaning because of how good they are.”

Saturday’s game comes as one of the rare times Arizona State has played against the Wildcats where ASU is ranked higher and a favorite to win. Miller doesn’t look at it that way. 

“We are always the heavy favorite in some ways,” Miller said. “We lost three games, and that’s a big story. We are 10-3. So I think for us, we know who we are, we are supposed to win every game. And that’s what all of us signed up for.”

The game tips off in the McKale Center at 7:00 p.m. Saturday on Pac-12 Network. 


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