Arizona basketball preview: Colorado seeks revenge, no rest for Hill
With the No. 9 Arizona men’s basketball team experiencing ejections, injuries and adversity throughout the last three games, one man — forward Solomon Hill — has helped calm the waters. But when the Wildcats travel to take on Colorado at 8 p.m. tonight in the Coors Event Center in Boulder, Colo., even Hill might need to take a little rest to combat the mile-high air.
“I think all of our players can benefit by just taking a few minutes off,” head coach Sean Miller said. “It’s not a reflection toward their performance as much as it allows them to be more consistent on the court, both on offense and defense.
“One of the things about Solomon is we ask him to do so much … being able to be aware and maybe once in a while give him a rest, I think that would really benefit him.”
With the minor turbulence in the Wildcat lineup the last few weeks — an ejection of senior Kevin Parrom at Washington State and a left foot injury for freshman Grant Jerrett — Hill has sat on the bench for a total of five minutes.
He hasn’t had much of a chance to catch his breath in Pac-12 play, either. Hill leads Arizona with 32.9 minutes per game and has played under 34 minutes only once, against USC.
Yet the thought of seeing more bench time never crossed the senior’s mind. Hill compared himself to reporters, saying that if it’s something a person loves to do — whether it’s interviewing or playing basketball — they’ll do it all day without tiring.
“If you feel like you’re one of the best guys [on the court], you want to be out there regardless,” Hill said. “The fatigue thing goes to the back of your mind when the game gets down and crunch time starts to hit; you don’t really worry about being tired anymore.”
But that might not be an option in the hostile, mile-high atmosphere of Boulder. Both Miller and Hill said Colorado has one of the best crowds in the conference, and that’s not taking the cold mountain air into account.
The Buffaloes’ 10-deep rotation puts rest at a premium in Colorado, yet the thought of altitude slowing down the Wildcats didn’t register with either Hill or sophomore Nick Johnson, who both played in the Coors Event Center last season.
“[Reserve Max Wiepking] says it’s a big deal because he’s a Nuggets fan,” Hill said about altitude being a factor. “But, when you’re out there on the court, the only thing you’re thinking about is the next possession and how hard you can play it.”
Breaking down the Buffaloes
In the last meeting between Colorado and Arizona, the Buffaloes were deadly from three-point range (hitting 10-of-15 in regulation) and only fell at McKale Center because of their last-minute collapse and a discounted buzzer-beater by guard Sabatino Chen. The Wildcats finished the game 12-3 in overtime, but still just escaped by the skin of their teeth in Tucson.
Tonight’s game will be the first rematch for Arizona (20-3, 8-3 Pac-12) this season, and it’s against a surging Colorado (16-7, 6-5) squad just itching for revenge. The Buffaloes have won five of their last six, including a sweep at the Oregon schools last weekend.
Miller said the sweep speaks volumes about Colorado’s quality and how they’ve continued to develop and improve since the teams’ last meeting in early January.
Considering how well the Buffaloes’ two freshman forwards played in the 92-83 overtime thriller, the continued growth could be a problem.
Big man Josh Scott had 15 points and five rebounds on 6-for-8 shooting, while small forward Xavier Johnson scored 13 points and six boards. Even if they revert back to their normal roles tonight — though Scott has played close to that level all season — the Buffaloes still have veteran firepower playing great basketball at the moment.
Forward Andre Roberson is second in the nation, with 11.6 rebounds per game, and guard Spencer Dinwiddie, the team’s leading scorer, netted 24 points against Oregon State without missing a shot.
“[Dinwiddie] is just a terrific guard,” Miller said. “He’s very capable of having a big offensive night.”
The player who could have the biggest impact in the game is the other guard, sophomore Askia Booker, who will heave the ball up at a moment’s notice.
In order to stop a repeat performance by Booker (he made 4-of-7 from deep against the Wildcats last time out), Johnson said he will always need to be aware of Booker.
“He can get it off in a variety of ways — coming off screens, ball screens, just isolating by himself,” Johnson said.
“Just limit his easy shots. Make every point that he has, make him work for it.”