A Player's Program: Colorado preview - Tucson News Now

A Player's Program: Colorado preview

BOULDER, CO (AP) -

With Arizona's biggest remaining challenge of the regular season looming, one might expect the Wildcats to look past struggling Colorado.

Sean Miller insists that won't be the case, however.

No. 7 Arizona visits the Buffaloes on Thursday night ahead of its weekend showdown with 13th-ranked Utah.

The Wildcats (24-3, 12-2 Pac-12) are one game ahead of the second-place Utes, whom they defeated 69-51 on Jan. 17. Saturday's matchup in Salt Lake City will be pivotal in Arizona's quest for a second straight league title.

"Our players respect (Colorado's) players, we respect their team," Miller said. " ... That, coupled with playing at Colorado is a tough environment. I think that that game has our undivided attention and it's really not even anything we've had to talk about."

Miller's group also shouldn't need a wake-up call given its last performance. The Wildcats shot 34.0 percent in Saturday's 57-47 win over UCLA, their worst in a victory since hitting 32.8 percent versus Stanford in 2010.

Stanley Johnson and Brandon Ashley, who lead Arizona with 14.2 and 11.3 points per game, respectively, combined for 12 on 3-of-19 shooting. Reserves Gabe York and Dusan Ristic helped rescue the offense with 25 points.

The Wildcats' bench ranks third in the Pac-12 with 21.2 points per game.

"We won tonight because we had several players who didn't start the game come in and contribute in massive ways," Miller said.

Arizona also relied on another dominant rebounding performance, recording 16 second-chance points on 14 offensive boards. Meanwhile, the Wildcats, limited UCLA to one offensive rebound after the Bruins came in averaging a league-best 12.8 in league play.

Arizona's plus-10.2 rebounding margin average in conference play is tied with Quinnipiac as the best nationally.

The Wildcats claimed a 41-26 rebounding advantage in a 68-54 home win on Jan. 15. Johnson scored a season-high 22 while Colorado's Askia Booker scored 30 and hit six 3-pointers.

The Buffaloes (12-14, 5-9) have averaged a plus-5.4 rebounding margin since then but are shooting 34.4 percent while dropping five of six, which doesn't bode well against an Arizona team that held its last four opponents to 36.6 percent shooting.

Colorado committed a season-high 22 turnovers and shot 34.6 percent in Saturday's 72-58 loss at Oregon. Booker, the conference's fifth-leading scorer, was limited to nine points on 2-for-14 shooting.

Barring a run to the Pac-12 tournament title, the Buffaloes will miss out on the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.

"I believe in this team as much today as I did at beginning of the season ??? I really, truly do. I know what we're capable of. Now, am I disappointed in where we are today? Absolutely," coach Tad Boyle told the team's official website. "But that doesn't mean I've lost my belief ... for this year or for next year or for the players in the program."

Colorado has lost its three matchups with ranked teams in 2014-15 by an average of 22.4 points and has dropped five straight in the series since a 71-58 home win over the then-ninth ranked Wildcats on Feb. 14, 2013.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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