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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats prep for brutal road matchup against Gonzaga

Slut+Walk+began+at+the+Womens+Plaza+of+Honor+on+campus+and+ended+at+The+Hopyard+on+4th+Avenue+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+14%2C+2015.+
Rebecca Noble
Slut Walk began at the Women’s Plaza of Honor on campus and ended at The Hopyard on 4th Avenue on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

A week removed from the DirecTV Wooden Legacy, Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller and company will now turn their attention to No. 13 Gonzaga on Saturday in Spokane, Washington.

No. 19 Arizona (6-1) is coming off of a third-place finish in the tournament, where it defeated Boise State and Santa Clara, but lost to Providence in the semifinals.

The Wildcats will be traveling north without senior big man Kaleb Tarczewski. The 7-foot center was diagnosed with a stress reaction and strained muscle in his left foot, which he suffered during the Wildcats’ victory over Santa Clara. He is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Getting healthy enough to practice and develop as a full squad was something Miller stressed in his Thursday press conference.

“It’s not just the games, … but part of what you want to do at this time of year is continue to get better and improve and develop,” Miller said. “And we’ve had very few practices where we’ve had 10 scholarship players going. That’s hurt our progress.”

Unlike Arizona, Gonzaga (5-1) returned some key players from last year’s team.

The Bulldogs were bounced out of last season’s tournament, along with the Wildcats, in the Elite Eight.

Gonzaga lost to Duke, which eventually went on to beat Wisconsin for the NCAA Championship.

Both Arizona and Gonzaga, however, have suffered early season losses at the hand of teams that are currently ranked.

Providence, now No. 23, jumped into the AP Top 25 after its defeat of Arizona, while No. 18 Texas A&M defeated Gonzaga 62-61.

The Arizona defense is still struggling in big moments at the end of games, as they allowed Santa Clara to hang around and send the game to overtime and eventually let Providence by with a win.

But the offense has also struggled, as the Wildcats committed 55 turnovers in three games of the Wooden Legacy.

“The number one factor for us on offense is—forget who’s hurt—is turnovers,” Miller said. “We are turning the basketball over at far too high of a rate.”

The Wildcats will have to take care of the ball or they could become Gonzaga’s third Pac-12 Conference victim this year.

The Bulldogs have already downed two Pac-12 opponents this season in Washington and Washington State.

The strength with Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and the Bulldogs lies within their frontcourt, which could cause Arizona fits without Tarczewski’s presence.

Miller noted that his team will improve as the season progresses, and said he hopes to do so before Tarczewski returns to the court.

“I think the silver lining with us is eventually, [our luck is] going to come back around,” Miller said. “And when it does, I think you’re going to see a significant jump in our level of play.”

Redshirt senior forward Kyle Wiltjer leads the group, followed by senior center Przemek Karnowski and sophomore forward Domantas Sabonis. Wiltjer is averaging 18 points and six rebounds through six games this season.

The Bulldogs and Wildcats played a thriller in McKale Center in December 2014, where Arizona came out on top 66-63 in overtime. Wiltjer ended the game 6-for-16 from the field with 15 points, while Karnowski had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Gonzaga.

Tipoff for Arizona and Gonzaga will be 1:15 p.m. Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center and will be broadcasted on ESPN.


Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.


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