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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats’ defense applies ‘pressure points’

    UA forward Jordan Hill executes a trap in the first half of Arizonas 84-71 win Friday night in AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. The Wildcats won the first round of the NCAA Tournament primarily due to aggressive defensive traps.
    UA forward Jordan Hill executes a trap in the first half of Arizona’s 84-71 win Friday night in AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. The Wildcats won the first round of the NCAA Tournament primarily due to aggressive defensive traps.

    Basketball Notes

    MIAMI – It was all about awareness.

    Entering Friday night’s game, the Wildcats were aware that their NCAA name brand could have snuck them into the Big Dance.

    They were aware that those same critics questioning their at-large bid predicted Friday night’s game as one of the Tournament’s first-round upsets.

    Ultimately, Arizona’s awareness on the defensive end became the key to the game, forcing 20 total turnovers against the No. 5-seed Utes – a team unfamiliar with the full-court press and constantly aggressive traps coming from the Mountain West Conference.

    Their NCAA Tournament bubble not only survived, but it flourished against the naysayers to set up a second-round matchup against No. 13-seed Cleveland State on Sunday.

    “”Ball pressure, ball pressure, ball pressure. … We came out with fire and it helped us out,”” said UA forward Jamelle Horne.

    The Utes started the game off shooting 1-for-10 from the floor and endured 13 turnovers – just in the first half.

    The Wildcats recorded 13 steals en route to an 84-71 win triggered by the full-court defensive traps Arizona used in victories over Gonzaga, Kansas and UCLA earlier this year.

    Although the Wildcats have executed full-court traps all season long, it was the traps’ frequency that changed Friday night against the Utes.

    Typically, Arizona would only attempt to double team the opposition one time in the backcourt, then retreat to a half-court set. But this time around, the Wildcats threw a bevy of hits at Utah with multiple traps to force turnovers and control the game’s tempo.

    “”Before we’d be one-and-done in the press. (But Friday), every opportunity, we’re going to run a trap,”” said UA associate head coach Mike Dunlap, the team’s defensive de facto coordinator. “”The biggest thing is they weren’t able to focus on (Luke) Nevill.””

    Added UA wing Zane Johnson: “”We knew they had some shaky ball handlers and they hadn’t pressed too much. Coach Dunlap actually talked to some of the coaches around the Mountain West league and asked about the press. No one really presses in the league, so we decided that we’re going to bring the heat on them on the press. It sure worked.””

    Not that the Wildcats, per say, surprised the Utes with their trap. But rather, they used their long, athletic build and quickness to deflect passes and blur the passer’s vision.

    That’s something difficult for the opposition to replicate in practice, Dunlap said, since Utah can’t match up athletically.

    So, is that Dunlap’s ideal formula for the next round against Cleveland State?

    “”We don’t want to become static and predicable,”” Dunlap said. “”We’re in a little bit of punch and retreat, punch and retreat.””

    To begin the second half, UA guard Kyle Fogg intercepted a pass at halfcourt and dished it to UA point guard Nic Wise for a quick layup.

    Fogg also recorded a huge steal with 4:05 remaining in the game – just as momentum began in the favor of Utah.

    Fogg recorded three steals, while UA wing Chase Budinger had a game-high four steals.

    “”The team gets hyped off of me getting steals because I just focus all on defense, and that pumps me up, so I want to try to get after it and get another steal, and that pumps them up to play better defense, too,”” Fogg said. “”All this week our coaches have really been pushing us in practices and focusing on getting after the ball with our hands, especially getting our hands up, deflections on the ball. They’re a good team, but they didn’t see a lot of press in their league, so we just tried to capitalize on that and pressure.””

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