The Arizona Wildcats (21-4, 9-4 Pac-12) have lost two of their last three games and coach Sean Miller has had enough of the losing.
They went into the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday to face a Utah team that has only won three games in conference and have yet to string two wins together. The Utes stole a game from Arizona State earlier in the week and they were ready to take down the ‘Cats.
Arizona took a 13-point lead in the second half but then allowed Utah back in the game to tie it at 51 with 6:23 remaining. The Wildcats once again turned on the afterburner and pulled away from Utah to win 68-64.
Their shooting against Utah was much more on point than the previous two games when they lost by eight and 13 points respectively.
After closely examining the Wildcats’ past wins and losses, here are the five keys to beating Washington on Wednesday night.
Contain C.J. Wilcox
Wilcox is averaging 20.9 points per game in their six conference wins and only 13.5 per game in their seven conference losses.
It seems that Wilcox can get easily flustered as is evidenced by his 32 percent field goal percentage in the aforementioned conference losses.His 17.6 points per game average is No. 5 in the Pac-12, so it is evident that when he finds his shot, he can light it up.
Don’t Allow Aziz N’Diaye to Control the Glass
The senior Senegalese center is a monster on the boards. Checking in at 7’0″ and 260 pounds, N’Diaye is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
His 9.6 rebounds per game is tied for No. 3 in the Pac-12 and his 3.6 offensive boards per game is best in the conference. He also leads the conference in field goal percentage. This is due largely to the fact that his myriad offensive rebounds are turned into points.
Averaging nearly a double-double per game with 10.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, N’Diaye is a big man that gives his all in every game.
Start off Strong and Don’t Let Up
We have seen it countless times, the Wildcats seem to have a problem with getting primed for games and they start off flat. If they can come out with a big opening and keep the pedal to the medal throughout the game, the Huskies won’t stand a chance.
Senior swingman Kevin Parrom got the start on Sunday against Utah and perhaps that was what they needed to break their two-game losing streak. Parrom played 29 minutes and scored nine points to go along with his nine rebounds and three assists.
Brandon Ashley, who usually starts, also had a good game with 10 points, four rebounds and three steals in 22 minutes of playing time.
The Wildcats are the No. 3 team in the Pac-12 with 7.2 steals per game and Nick Johnson’s 2.2 steals per game is the second best in the conference. The Huskies have had troubles in the past keeping a handle on the ball and currently have the third most in the Pac-12 with 13.58 per game.
Forcing turnovers is the quickest way for the ‘Cats to build up a quick lead and bury the Huskies. They have all the skills to do it, it just comes down to execution.
Free Throws, Free Throws, Free Throws
Arizona has done a great job from the charity stripe this year and it shows in its 21-4 record. As a team, they are No. 2 in the Pac-12 Conference with 74.4 percent and also have the second-most field goals made per game with 15.9.
Senior point guard, Mark Lyons is money at the line, hitting a team-leading 85.3 percent while Solomon Hill, Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley are all hitting over 70-percent from the line.
With as close as Arizona likes to play in games, it is imperative that it makes as many free throws as possible, because a single point here and there can be make a big difference for the “Cardiac Cats.”