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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | Last updated: 2:25am

Wildcats basketball vs. Washington to be a rebounding battle



Last time Arizona and Washington met, head coach Sean Miller stressed the importance of rebounding, and indicated that the victor of the rebounding battle would ultimately win the game.

The Wildcats beat the Huskies on the glass, 36 to 35, and lo and behold, they won the game 57-53 in Seattle, Wash.

With No. 12 Arizona (21-4, 8-4 Pac-12) hosting Washington (14-12, 6-7) tonight at 9 p.m. in McKale Center, rebounding is still key to the game for Miller. What’s changed, though, is the Wildcats’ identity as an aggressive team inside the paint, making the Huskies a much more dangerous opponent this time around.

“[Washington] is ferocious on the glass,” Miller said. “They’re a big, physical, strong team that’s relentless rebounding. They do it year in and year out.”

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While UW doesn’t exactly snag every ball in sight around the glass, ranking No. 9 in the Pac-12 in total rebounds per game, the Huskies excel on the offensive glass. Washington is first in the conference with 12.8 offensive rebounds per game, and its ability to grab its own misses gives the Huskies the third-best rebounding margin (plus-4.0) in the Pac-12.

Right above them? Arizona and its plus-6.5 rebounding margin.

As good as that sounds for the Wildcats, though, the number has been shrinking. In the past five games, Arizona has been outrebounded by its opponents by one total board.

“Sometimes over a course of a 35-game season you hit peaks and valleys with rebounding,” Miller said. “But I think we can get it back down the stretch. It’s an emphasis for us.

“Can we do it better? No doubt.”

Against Utah, seniors Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill combined for half of the team’s 34 rebounds and had five of the 11 offensive boards. Both small forwards felt that the reason for the decline comes squarely from the Wildcats’ effort.

“It’s all about effort,” Parrom said. “I know I’m not going to play the greatest at times, but Coach knows that when I’m out there, I’m giving my best effort. That’s all you can ask for — effort.”

With Washington’s 7-foot center Aziz N’Diaye and several other aggressive Huskies out on the court tonight, the play around the glass will be crucial in deciding who comes out on top.

“We have to try to attack on the boards … [Our] rebound margin has been terrible,” Hill said about the UA’s recent performance. “And, that’s one thing [UW] likes to do — they like to rebound.”

Arizona’s 3-point defense playing with fire

Arizona’s poor 3-point defense has been an issue all season. And just when it looked to be improving, it took a turn for the worse.

Tonight won’t get any easier, as the prolific C.J. Wilcox (17.6 points per game) leads the Washington attack, causing some concern for Miller and the Wildcats.

“You put our team under the microscope and you say, ‘What do they have to do better?’” Miller said. “Our 3-point defense is No. 1. When you have someone like Wilcox who for them means so much behind the [3-point] line, it’s important that we defend him very well.”

Both Miller and Hill described the Wildcats’ recent perimeter defense as “pathetic.” Considering Arizona ranks 287th out of 345 teams in opponent 3-point defense (36.6 percent), they might not be far off. Arizona ranks dead last in the Pac-12, and teams have made 21 of their last 40 deep balls against the Wildcats (52.5 percent).

“The past few years we’ve been in the top five of guarding the 3-point line,” Hill said. “It’s pathetic in the sense of how much we’ve dropped.”

Arizona finished third in 3-point defense the previous two seasons, yet that’s far from the case this year, despite still having Miller and his coaching techniques in place.

“We were starting to get a name for who was guarding the 3-point line,” Hill said. “We’ve just lost all credibility.”

Last time in Seattle, Arizona’s 3-point defense wasn’t a problem. In fact, the Huskies made just 1-of-12 from deep, the best Arizona has defended the arc all season. While Miller said it was a total team effort to shut down Wilcox and the Huskies, guard Nick Johnson played a crucial role in containing him.

But as well as Johnson did, another 4-for-16 shooting night won’t be easy to come by.

“I think if [Wilcox] gets going it can be a long night for whoever he plays against,” Hill said. “So we want to jump on him early. I think Nick will be geared up to really go after him again and replicate what he did last time.”


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