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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Tarczewski’s resurgence key for Wildcats push forward

Arizona+center+Kaleb+Tarczewski+%2835%29+ensures+the+completion+of+a+basket+during+Arizonas+87-57+win+against+USC+in+McKale+Center+on+Thursday.
Emily Gauci

Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski (35) ensures the completion of a basket during Arizona’s 87-57 win against USC in McKale Center on Thursday.

It hasn’t been a great season for Kaleb Tarczewski. Heck, it hasn’t even been an above-average season for Tarczewski. However, over the past three games, the 7-footer has been outstanding. And people are bound to start noticing.

No. 7 Arizona (23-3, 11-2 Pac-12 Conference) has won three-straight games and has scored at least 86 points in each matchup. To say Tarczewski has been a vital part to the scoring increase is not far-fetched. In fact, it’s pretty accurate.

Over those three games, Tarczewski is averaging 13.3 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and has stepped up his defensive presence. All of which culminated in three much-needed victories for the Wildcats.

Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller said Tarczewski’s recommitment and refocus, specifically since the ASU game, has been a big key to the team’s offensive resurgence.

“He felt terrible, and Kaleb is very self-critical and he cares a lot,” Miller said. “Sometimes when you’re hard-working, you’re diligent, you care about your performance, you can also once in a while lose your confidence. And I think that happened to him. It happened to him prior to that game but it all seemed to fester on that Saturday afternoon.”

That Saturday saw Tarczewski score eight points and grab four rebounds in 25 minutes of play. Despite the average numbers, his miscues highlighted his performance. Whether it was numerous missed passes, a botched dunk or just a general lack of court awareness, to say it was not Kaleb Tarczewski’s night might be an understatement.

It was the kind of performance that really gets you wondering what’s going on in a player’s head as he’s going through the motions.

While that was an unenviable low, Tarczewski’s response has been exactly what Arizona needed. Kudos to him, as the player who seemed fragile against ASU, played an instrumental part in the most recent win over USC.

He’s made a complete 180 since that fateful Saturday night and shown what kind of force he can be when all of the cogs are turning.

“His response has been what you would want,” Miller said. “He’s gotten back to work, he’s watched some extra film. To me, he has a renewed sense of confidence. One of the points that I made to Kaleb is: don’t judge yourself by the points you score. There’s so many things he does that are valuable toward winning for us that you don’t see in a box score. You can sometimes get away from that when you’re not scoring. So, I think he’s in a good place right now.”

Looking forward at the rest of the regular season and even the Pac-12 tournament, Arizona needs Tarczewski to continue to be in a good place — both mentally and physically. Not many teams have 7-footers as active and mobile as Tarczewski, and he can be really a huge weapon for the Arizona frontline when he’s fully engaged.

Pairing a motivated Tarczewski with Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson and T.J. McConnell gives Arizona a starting five that few teams in the country can match.

It may sound like an exaggeration, but a happy Zeus is a good Zeus. And a good Zeus is beyond fantastic for Sean Miller’s Wildcats going forward.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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