The LA schools come to Tucson this week to face Arizona men's basketball
Arizona takes home a win in the McKale Center after defeating Omaha 99-49.
After finally getting the elusive first road win and then ending the weekend by also beating Washington State, No. 23 Arizona men’s basketball will be back in action tonight at 7:00 p.m. against USC. Then on Saturday, UCLA will travel to McKale Center to face the Wildcats at 8:00 p.m.
Arizona swept the Washington schools this past weekend, which is impressive not only because road sweeps are hard in the Pac-12, but also it was the first time any team in the conference has gotten a road sweep.
While the freshman class gets a lot of the hype, it’s been the transfers and upperclassmen that have really been starting to come into their own the last couple of games. Stone Gettings looks like he’s fitting right into place in the starting line up after his double-double against Washington State. Jemarl Baker Jr. hit a big three against Washington with under a minute left to secure that win. Max Hazzard went off for 24 points against Utah. Ira Lee had six points and seven rebounds against Colorado, and when he checked out for the final time the fans in McKale Center were chanting his name.
“Experience is still very valuable in college basketball,” said head coach Sean Miller. “As far back as the red-blue game we’ve talked about the versatility of our team, the depth and we’re going to be dependent, and hopefully we’re going to have great value in those that don’t start the game and that’s really not changed.”
While this team is still inconsistent most of the time, anyone can step up on any given night and have a big night. With that being said, let’s look at what to watch for this weekend against the Los Angeles schools:
The Trojans come in at 17-5 overall and 6-3 in conference play. They are led by forward Onyeka Okongwu who averages almost a double-double with 16.7 points per game and 9 rebounds per game. USC also has seven players who average over 20 minutes. They also bring Nick Rakocevic and Isiah Mobley who are both over 6-foot-10 and average over 10 points. This could be one of Zeke Nnaji’s toughest games this season with how good the front-court of USC is.
Miller also said that Chase Jeter will play this week, which Arizona will need if Nnaji or Christian Koloko gets into foul trouble. Rebounding will also play a huge factor since both Los Angeles schools are ranked No. 1 and 2 in offensive rebounding percentage in the conference.
“I think that’s [rebounding] a key for any team that gets ready to play these two teams, [USC and UCLA],” Miller said. “You have to be able to hold your own on the glass. Get second shots, be able to keep them from getting key second shots. Needing all five players to rebound … I don’t think there are two opponents that do that better than USC and UCLA.”
The Mick Cronin era at UCLA has not been off to a great start as the Bruins are 12-10 and 5-4 in conference play but sit in sixth place in the Pac-12. Chris Smith leads the way for them as he averages 12.7 points, but no one else on the team averages over 10. This was supposed to be the first time that Arizona fans were going to see Shareef O’Neal since he de-committed from the Wildcats. But O’Neal is transferring from UCLA after he only played about 10 minutes and averaged only 2 points.
If there were any game for Josh Green to break out of his scoring slump, it would be this one. Even though he did have nine points against Washington State and hit a three for the first time since the Utah game, the freshman hasn’t been scoring as well as he did in the first half of the year. He went 0-8 against ASU and then only had five points against Washington. Green does, however, play the best defense on the team and constantly gets matched up with the best player on the opposing team every game.
Arizona will face USC Friday at 7:00 p.m. and then UCLA on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and both games can be seen on ESPN2 if you can’t make it to McKale Center.
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