Following an up and down start to the season, U of A looks to improve tomorrow night against a talented Duquesne team. Following an impressive preseason record of 6-1 (including a summer trip to Canada) the Dukes are looking to start their regular season with a win over an inconsistent Arizona team. The Duke’s are returning three starters and a number of talented newcomers looking to make a name in the Atlantic 10 Conference. If U of A wants to win and convince the nation they are a talented group deserving the #16 spot in the AP poll, they will need to find their mojo early. A few key points for the Wildcats to be successful:
DEFENSE: After a slow start to the first regular season game against Valporaiso, the Cats looked to be in sync with rotations and were causing havoc for the Crusaders in the second half. With about 4 minutes left in the game and leading by double digits, the cats started to slip. The Crusaders were making three pointers at will, and to make matters worse, Arizona could not hit their free throws when it counted. Luckily for Arizona, the Cats had developed a large enough lead early on to hold on to a 73-64 victory. If the Cats want to show the country how good they are, they need to be consistent from the first whistle to the last with defense.
FREE THROWS: Arizona was 23-32 from the line, but 5 of their 9 misses came with less than 8 minutes left in the game. It can not be stressed enough how important making free throws is during any game, especially in the closing minutes.
FOUL TROUBLE: Hill, Chol, and Kyryl were all in foul trouble before the end of the first half and Chol eventually fouled out in the second. Meanwhile, Kyryl and Hill both ended the game with four fouls. These three players are the most detrimental to Arizona’s success on the boards. If they are all in foul trouble, Arizona will not get as many second chances and will give the Dukes extra opportunities.
WILDCATS WHO NEED TO SHOW MORE: Freshman PG Josiah Turner has a lot of hype to his name, but his lack of defense could soon find him behind Jordin Mayes. Turner continues to be lazy and get beat back door. Sean Miller is not someone to care who you are: if you do not play defense, you will find yourself warming the seat on the bench. Sidiki found that out quickly and already lost minutes to Angelo Chol, who is now contesting Kyryl for the starting position.
DUQUESNE PLAYERS TO WATCH: T.J. McConnell, a 6’1 Sophomore Guard, led the Atlantic 10 last year in steals averaging 2.8 per game (4th best in the nation). He’s a fast and savvy guard who will be a challenge for our guards to contain. Sean Johnson, a 6’2 Junior Guard, averaged 9.8 points per game last year. He is an athletic and strong guard who loves to take it to the rack. Arizona will need to force Johnson to take outside shots and knock him out of sync by contesting him in the lane.
PREDICTIONS: U of A starts slow out of the gates again, but will be too athletic and fast for a young Duquesne team. Cats win 72-60. GO CATSSSSSS!!!!!