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February 19, 2014

No. 4 Arizona looks to get offense clicking at Utah

Fourth-ranked Arizona will continue what may as well be known as the post-Brandon Ashley experience Wednesday at Utah.

Tipoff at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City is scheduled for 8 p.m.

The Wildcats (23-2, 10-2 Pac-12 Conference) have split their last four games and are shooting a combined 39.3 percent - including a 23-of-64 effort that wasted a plus-19 edge in rebounding in last Friday's 69-66 double-overtime loss at Arizona State.

UA head coach Sean Miller was tongue-in-cheek about how the story of his team has changed from the one that won 21 consecutive games to open the season to one with a smaller margin for error.

"You guys can now have a different storyline," Miller said. "It's no longer the fantasy ride of 21 games in a row. It's now that we can't make shots, we've lost two out of four, and all of a sudden maybe they're not going to go as far.

"But when you're in the locker room as a player and a coach, you can't think that way."

UA will look to get its offense on track after missing 14 free throws and turning the ball over 15 times against the Sun Devils.

T.J. McConnell, one of 23 point guards in the running for the Bob Cousy Award, had six of the turnovers and just two assists in an uncharacteristic night that overshadowed his team-high 17 points.

"We know and everyone knows our offense doesn't look like it did against ASU," McConnell said. "We'll bounce back.

"I kind of think I pressed a little too much in this last game. That's on me and I've got to manage the offense better."

And Utah (17-8, 6-7 Pac-12) will provide a tough environment and an opponent that Nick Johnson said was the "hardest nine-point win" of the UA season on Jan. 26.

The Utes lost 65-56 but held the Wildcats to a 40 percent shooting night. Arizona closed the contest on a 20-9 flurry.

"They run quite a few defenses," UA center Kaleb Tarczewski said. "I think we're going to be a little more prepared for it this time. Obviously, we're going to be going into a pretty hostile environment."

The Utes, who are 16-1 at home, are led by junior transfer Delon Wright, who netted 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in the first meeting.

Wright is averaging 16.2 points this season, including 17.4 in Pac-12 play. In a pair of games last week in Los Angeles, the 6-5 guard averaged 18 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists while shooting 52.6 percent from the field. He also made 16 of 18 free throws.

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak is looking to combat an Arizona team that imposed its will on the glass, 40-29, in the previous meeting. The Wildcats collected half of their rebounds on the offensive boards.

"To use a football analogy, it's a team that runs the ball," Krystkowiak said. "They grind on you and grind on you and eventually the defense gets tired of being on the field at the end of the game. There's a lot to be said for the way they play."

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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