Skip to content

Arizona displays improved defensive effort in win over Colorado

Mar 14, 2013, 8:27 PM EDT

Arizona v Colorado Getty Images

Even though they were an active participant in the Pac-12 race for the entire 18-game league schedule, something was missing for the Arizona Wildcats on most nights. What was missing was intensity on the defensive end of the floor, something that helped Sean Miller’s teams rank among the best in college basketball at defending the three-pointer in each of the two seasons prior.

If the Wildcats’ (25-6) defensive effort in the first half of their 79-69 Pac-12 quarterfinal victory over Colorado was any indication, Arizona is better equipped to win games in the NCAA tournament now than they were a couple weeks ago.

Arizona forced ten Colorado turnovers in the first half, converting those mistakes into 15 points as they took a 39-28 lead into the intermission. The Buffaloes (21-11) played much better in the second half, turning the ball over just three times, but the damage was already done as they could get no closer than two points in the final 20 minutes.

For the game Colorado shot 43.1% from the field, which is actually Arizona’s best defensive showing since limiting Washington to 30.8% shooting back on February 20.

Guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker combined to score 30 points for Colorado but they attempted 22 shots (making eight) in doing so.

From a percentage standpoint Arizona’s defensive outing is certainly a case of “baby steps,” but their improved activity on that end of the floor is something that Miller and his staff have been looking for. And Johnson, their best perimeter defender, led the way against a team that gave them trouble in both regular season meetings.

“It’s not always that you pitch a shutout defensively as much as how much your effort level can make the other team or other player work to score,” noted Miller.

“There is no question that [Johnson's] talent and effort level on defense, that alone, made the game harder for their guards, not that their guards didn’t play well, but our effort level was where it needed to be to win. Many times our defense starts with Nick.”

Offensively the Wildcats were balanced with Nick Johnson leading three players in double figures with 18 points, and six Arizona players managed to score at least seven points.

But outside of their occasional bouts with turnovers, offense wasn’t the lingering concern for this group (they’re 23rd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency according to kenpom.com). Friday will provide another test in this area as the Wildcats take on UCLA, which swept the season series, in the Pac-12 semifinals.

But regardless of the outcome the following remains true for Arizona: how far they end up going in the NCAA tournament will depend on how committed they are to getting stops.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Latest Posts
  1. Mixtape of elite 2015 big man Ivan Rabb (VIDEO)

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpti1yzy1ymy3ytizody1zwrhyzfhmme2odcxyjawntbi AP

    Ivan Rabb is one of the best centers in the country.

  2. Five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney decommits from Louisville

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

    Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel

    Five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney has opened it back up.

  3. Cincinnati adds commitment in 2015 class from forward

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Mick Cronin AP

    The Bearcats added a 2015 recruit on Monday night.

  4. Kansas begins Bill Self’s two-week Boot Camp

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Bill Self AP

    Kansas begins a two-week Boot Camp today.

  5. Richard Pitino warns Minnesota fans not to trust his dad before Louisville opener

    Sep 15, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Billy Minardi Classic - Florida International v Louisville Getty Images

    Things are getting interesting between the Pitinos as we get closer to the Minnesota and Louisville game.

  6. Florida International’s court destroyed by CrossFit event

    Sep 15, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Norfolk State v Illinois Getty Images

    Florida International had some bad luck over the weekend.

  7. Charlotte head coach Alan Major returns from medical leave of absense

    Sep 15, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament - First Round - Charlotte v Richmond Getty Images

    Charlotte head coach Alan Major has returned to the team.

  8. Another mixtape for Jaylen Brown, No. 2 prospect in 2015 (VIDEO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Brown is a 6-foot-7 powerhouse that has drawn some comparisons to Stanley Johnson.

  9. NCAA adopts new rules philosophy regarding student-athlete support

    Sep 15, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT

    NCAA_Logo AP

    The NCAA is trying to improve their ability to apply common sense to rules interpretations.

  10. Big Blue Nation already camping out for Big Blue Madness? (PHOTO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    @JenNimePalumbo @JenNimePalumbo

    They’ll be out there for six full days. To get tickets to watch a practice.

  11. Shavon Shields shaves head to support coach’s son (PHOTO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 12:32 PM EDT

    @ChrisHarriman24 @ChrisHarriman24

    Avery Harriman continues his third battle with leukemia.

  12. USA Basketball, Mike Krzyzewski and thoughts on today’s ‘takedown’

    Sep 15, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    It was less a shot at Coach K than it was a shot at USA Basketball.

  13. Alani Moore, Markelle Fultz shine at DMVElite 80

    Sep 15, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT

    DSC_8490

    The best players in the D.C. area competed at DMVElite 80 over the weekend.

  14. Wyoming adds another Florida product to its 2015 recruiting class

    Sep 14, 2014, 11:59 PM EDT

    Wyoming v UNLV Getty Images

    Of Wyoming’s five 2015 verbal commitments, three have come from Florida natives.

  15. 6-foot-8 power forward verbally commits to Fordham

    Sep 14, 2014, 10:08 PM EDT

    Tom Pecora Tom Pecora

    The Tabor Academy forward picked Fordham over offers from Duquesne, Quinnipiac and Saint Joseph’s.

  16. Boise State successfully keeps three-star guard home

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT

    Leon Rice AP

    With Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks both being seniors, this is an important addition for the Broncos.

  17. Three-star power forward to announce college choice Friday

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT

    Scott Stuart/Rivals Scott Stuart/Rivals

    The Roselle Catholic (New Jersey) product is expected pick from Rhode Island, Seton Hall and South Carolina.