The Arizona Wildcats are in a zone, and much of the credit for their 18-4 (7-2) record can be attributed to facing the zone for much of the season.
Teams, concerned with stopping Derrick Williams, would turn to the defense in order to turn the Wildcats into a jump-shooting team. Lately, those shots are starting to fall.
“I think on offense we’ve really settled in and, like a lot of teams do, as the season’s grown we’ve become better on offense,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said.
The Wildcats enter this weekend’s games at Stanford (11-9, 4-5) and California (12-9, 5-4) averaging 77.2 points per game, second best in the conference, while surrendering 64.9. They are riding a three game win streak, and have lost just once in their last six games.
However, as Miller has said, of the nine conference regular season games left for his team five will be on the road, away from the friendly McKale Center where Arizona has not yet lost in 13 tries. Being tied for first at this point is not new to the team, as they were in a similar spot just last season only to finish with 16 wins and a 10-8 conference mark. Miller, though, said there are some key differences between the teams.
“This year’s team is better; we’re deeper, we’re a year older in what we’re doing,” he said. “Derrick Williams is at a completely different level as a player this year as opposed to his freshman year, much better on defense.”
Williams and his team will certainly be tested this weekend as the Wildcats take to the road for what will be three straight away games, starting with a Thursday trip to Stanford.
Led by Jeremy Green’s 14.2 points per game, Stanford gets another shot at an Arizona team that beat them 67-57 in early January. Miller said the Wildcats, in order to avoid the upset, must find a way to score against a good defense.
“I don’t know if anyone in our conference has scored 70 points on them,” Miller said when talking about Stanford’s defense. “You have to give credit where credit’s due.”
Miller said Arizona cannot rely on forcing Stanford mistakes in order to get the offense going, as they will need to execute their game plan.
“They’re not the type of team that beats themselves on defense,” he said.