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February 17, 2013

No. 9 Arizona looks to avoid three-game slide

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Ninth-ranked Arizona will take the court at the Huntsman Center with an unfamiliar feeling Sunday afternoon.

Coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this season, the Wildcats will try to get back in the win column against 11th-place Utah in a Pac-12 Conference meeting. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. MST.

"It's never as bad as its seems and the sky isn't falling," UA head coach Sean Miller said. "For all I know we can go to Utah, play a great game then we have two home games after that and we get back on track. There aren't a lot of teams right now that are headed where we're headed and no question there's bumps in the road over a long season."

Arizona (20-4, 8-4 Pac-12) lost an emotionally-charged affair Thursday at Colorado, 71-58. The 'Cats allowed an opponent to shoot above 59 percent in the second half for a second consecutive game. After improving in the past month at defending the 3-point line, UA allowed Colorado and California to make 15 of 30 from beyond the arc in the past two games.

"Our defense has been what has gotten us to this point," Miller said. "Our last two losses, our defense had a very hard time getting stops.

"We wouldn't be the team we are today and have the record we have if teams would have shot like this against us. We've played against some of the best teams in this country and our defense has held up. Tonight, it didn't. ... From our standpoint, we have to get back when we play Utah."

But the offensive struggles cannot be ignored, either. Nick Johnson has scored below double figures in four consecutive games. In the last two games combined, second-leading scorer Solomon Hill has made just 9 of 26 shots.

In the final 7:35 of first half against the Buffaloes, the Wildcats converted just one field goal and went nearly six minutes between baskets. Those have been the type of stagnant stretches that have led to double-digit deficits for the better part of the past month.

By the start of the second half, UA did not perform much better, forcing two 30-second timeouts in the first 2:13 by Miller. With 3:59 remaining, Miller had used all of his timeouts.

"At the beginning of the second half, we got off to a slow start and I had to call about 10 timeouts," Miller said.

Utah (11-13. 3-9 Pac-12) has split its last four games, including Wednesday's 60-55 win over Arizona State. The win matched the Utes' victory total in conference play from a season ago, their first year in the Pac-12.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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