The Wildcats suffered possibly the worst loss of the season Saturday and are in dire need of at least 2 wins in the Pac 12 Tournament, if not the entire enchilada. They face the Bruins (19-13, 12-7) in the second round after the Bruins took care of their cross-town rival USC easily Wednesday afternoon. The Wildcats will be without their Freshman Point Guard Josiah Turner as he did not travel with the team to L.A. The Bruins have been on a tear lately going 4-1 only losing to the Cats February 25th by 2 points. Ben Howland has his team playing well late in the season, even after the Sports Illustrated article bashing him and his program. This is a huge game as both teams look to make a push and win their way into the NCAA Tournament. They already hate each other, so both teams will come to play and it will be a scrappy one. Here’s a look inside Miller’s Chalkboard for a few key points on what the Wildcats need to do to come away with the victory.
REBOUND: Last meeting between the two teams, the Bruins out rebounded the Cats 37-31. Even though the Cats came out on top, stopping the Bruins from having second chance opportunities is a huge difference maker. Kyle Fogg and Josiah Turner accounted for 14 of our total rebounds last time. As Josiah Turner will not be there to rebound, we cannot have our leading rebounder be a guard in Kyle Fogg. While it’s a blessing that he can play big and secure the boards, but we need Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry, and Angelo Chol to play big down low. The Bruins have good rebounders in not only their twins and big man Josh Smith, but their Guards as well. Each of them accounted for 4 boards each last meeting between the two schools.
CREATE: As our floor general, Josiah Turner is really good at creating shots for others he will be at home watching the game on his couch or probably at the Rec Center goofing around as seen Wednesday. It will be up to Nick Johnson and Jordin Mayes to take the reigns and create open shots for our shooters, Kyle Fogg and Branden Lavender. If they are on and hit their jumpers, this will allow for us to spread the floor and let Solomon Hill go to work on the block. Solomon is good at creating for himself and getting to the basket for a lay-up or getting fouled and to the line. It will be even easier for Solomon Hill if his teammates are hitting their jumpers, creating more space on the blocks.
MANAGE THE GAME BETTER: Coach Miller always seems to use his timeouts so fast in games, leaving at most one with under 5 minutes. This has always bugged me, but never gave it so much attention until the loss at ASU. On Saturday Miller used our last timeout with over 2 minutes left in the game, and I think this was critical to why we lost. If he holds onto his timeouts, then in closer games he can use them down the stretch and set up plays on offense, change the defensive scheme if needed, or make minor tweaks that cannot be done otherwise. I also am not a believer in if a player messes up take him out, kids become afraid to play then and don’t play to their abilities. This is the strategy Miller has used with his younger players and especially with Chol. I think Chol deserves more minutes and he will be much needed come Thursday against Josh Smith and the Wear twins.
BRUINS TO WATCH: The Bruins PG, Lazeric Jones is a stud for the Bruins and does a little bit of everything for them. Even though last meeting Jones only scored 2 points, he leads the Bruins in scoring, averaging 13.4 points a game to go along with 4.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds a game. Down low big man Josh Smith bangs around and averages 10.1 points per contest to go along with his 5.1 boards a game off the bench. The Wear twins are the two starters down low and are a handful, together they account for 21.9 points a game and 12 rebounds a game.
PREDICTIONS: Wildcats have their backs against the wall to make the NCAA tournament. The Cats play well under pressure and come away with a victory in a close one, 75-71.
Topics: Angelo Chol, Arizona Wildcats, Brendon Lavender, Jesse Perry, Josh Smith, Josiah Turner, Kyle Fogg, Lazeric Jones, NCAA March Madness Tournament, Nick Johnson, Pac-12, Pac-12 Basketball Tournament, Sean Miller, Solomon Hill