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February 22, 2014

No. 4 Arizona in position Colorado knows well



When Arizona and Colorado meet for the second time this season Saturday in Boulder, the circumstances will look similar to the first contest.

Then, it was the Buffaloes playing in just their third contest without Spencer Dinwiddie. The adjustment period was a struggle as they lost four of five games, including a 69-57 decision to contribute to the 19th of 21 consecutive UA victories.

Now, it is the fourth-ranked Wildcats (24-2, 11-2 Pac-12 Conference) adjusting to life without a starter. UA split its first four games without Brandon Ashley before holding on for a 67-63 overtime win over Utah on Wednesday. It was the second overtime contest in as many games for the conference leaders.

The Buffaloes (20-7, 9-5 Pac-12) have since rebounded nicely, winning five of their last six, and are looking to tighten their grip on third place in the league standings.

Tipoff at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo., is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

"A month ago when Spencer ... went down there was some worry and some non-belief, but our guys have gotten it back and I'm awful proud," CU head coach Tad Boyle told the school's official website.

Arizona, which leads second-place UCLA by a game, has found Colorado to be a tough place to win. The Wildcats are winless in two trips since the Buffaloes joined the league in 2011-12, and have not won in Boulder since 1973.

The game also will be the Buffs' home finale before finishing up the remaining three games of the regular season on the road.

As a result, Boyle told reporters Friday that he was considering starting Ben Mills. The 7-foot senior is averaging 4.2 minutes and has made 9 of 16 field goals in 19 contests.

UA's own lineup change this week paid instant dividends. Looking to get Gabe York going after a 1-of-10 shooting slump over the previous two games, the sophomore earned the start over Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and scored 10 of his game-high-tying 15 points in the first half.

"That's what he can do," Wildcats head coach Sean Miller said of York. "He made some timely shots. One of the big reasons we went in the half with a lead was because of his offense."

But UA watched its 12-point second-half lead slip away, and Hollis-Jefferson helped save the day by scoring the first six points of the extra session.

While the shooting numbers slightly improved - the Wildcats shot above 50 percent in a half for just the second time in their last six games - the rebounding numbers have been a bit inconsistent. The league's top rebounding team was outworked, 37-31, losing the battle for the third time in six games, after not doing so through the first 20 games.

But Miller's mentality on the road is to simply pick up otherwise hard-to-come-by victories. UA had to hold on without freshman Aaron Gordon, who fouled out with more than eight minutes to play in regulation.

"Playing on the road is hard, especially in this conference because you never go and do one," Miller said. "Unless it's (Arizona State), you do both, so you're out here for four or five days. That doesn't mean we're going to play well against Colorado, but ... it feels good to win this, and hopefully we can go up there on Saturday and play at our best."

In the first meeting with the Buffaloes, the rebounds were even at 32.

A dominant effort on the glass Wednesday helped Colorado pull away from ASU, 61-52. The Buffs had a 48-27 advantage - including 15-5 on the offensive boards - and didn't surrender a single second-chance point to the Sun Devils.

Junior guard Askia Booker had a game-high 18 points to lead three double-figure scorers. Josh Scott notched a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds - including five on the offensive end.

"I think we're back on our feet," Booker said.

Now comes a rematch with UA. After the mostly convincing Jan. 23 loss, sophomore forward Xavier Johnson said the then-No. 1 Wildcats "weren't that good" and offered up a prediction for the second meeting.

"That'll be a 20-point blowout," Johnson told the traveling Colorado media, adding that he and Arizona share a mutual dislike for one another.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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