The Wildcats (12-6, 3-2) head to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes (4-13, 1-4) Thursday night. Utah is on a 3-game losing skid and will be looking for a PAC-12 win on their home floor. Utah and Arizona have met 49 times making this their 50th meeting. Utah leads the series 28-21, and more importantly handling the Cats at home with a 19-6 record. The Utes are coming off a huge loss to Cal and a tough loss at Stanford on their Bay area trip. They are eager to get this win against the Wildcats to stay in the thick of things within the PAC 12. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are coming off a split series at home to the Oregon schools, and basically need a win out to have a chance at the PAC 12 title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats need to connect on all cylinders, so here’s a look inside Miller’s Chalkboard for an Arizona victory.
COME OUT STRONG: Countless times the Wildcats have come out of the gates sluggish, and almost as if they haven’t played a single game together. They need to come out and have chemistry from the get-go. Players need to be on the same page when passing the ball, cutting to the basket, and switching on defense. Too many times this year we have been subject to early deficits due to lack of chemistry and then have to hope that we can pull out a come-from-behind miracle.
MAKE FREE THROWS: Against Oregon, Arizona made only 7 free throws after getting to the line for a total of 17 times. This shows how we are slow to start the game, but also says that we need to actually put the ball in the bucket once we get there. I would like to see more aggressiveness from our players and take it to the rack more instead of jacking up three pointers. It’s one thing if you’re wide open, but driving to the lane will produce better results: You can get a higher percentage shot, free another player for a better shot, or get fouled. We need our free throw attempts around 20 per game, but we also need to make at least 60% of them, not 40%.
USE SOLOMON HILL: Solo has been by far our most consistent player in all categories. He leads our team in points per game (12.1), rebounds per game (8.1) and assist per game (3.1). He is an all around stud, and why we drew up a last possession play not to go threw him blows my mind. Although his range has been on point this year, it’s his inside game that kills opponents. His post moves and lateral quickness around the basket makes him much more versatile and harder to guard. We need to utilize all of his assets in every game and feed him the rock much more than we have been.
GET CHOL MORE MINUTES: Chol, in my eyes has been the only true big man on our roster that has given us any sort of life. It frustrates me to only see him in the game for 7 minutes (Oregon) or 5 (OSU) in an overtime game! He does what is asked of him, he gives great help on defense, tries his butt off, gets boards, and even shows some offensive skills with a few jumpers and turn-arounds. We cannot depend on Perry and Hill to handle the load against every team down low. They are just too small at times and don’t give us the presence Chol does. I would love to see a line-up with Chol, Perry, Hill, Johnson, and Turner on the court for a good 5 minutes a half at least. We might not then be the small team on the court, and might give us an edge…. FOR ONCE.
UTES TO WATCH: Lucky for Arizona, Senior Guard Josh Watkins has been kicked off the Utah team (leads his team in both points per game and assists per game at 15.6 and 4.8 respectively to go along with 3.3 boards per contest). Junior big man Jason Washburn gets 10.5 points a game along with 6.5 rebounds per game and will cause trouble for the Wildcats down low. Junior Guard Chris Hines went off at Stanford for 21 points, including 3 from distance.
PREDICTIONS: Wildcats need to win to restore their dignity and Thursday night they will show up. The Cats come out on top, 74-62.