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2014 Maui Invitational: Arizona basketball faces Kansas State

The Arizona Wildcats should get a stiffer test against Kansas State and sophomore Marcus Foster.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona is still searching for the juice early in games.

In Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, maybe the Wildcats will more easily find some coffee. The translation to basketball terms is this: Arizona enters a Tuesday semifinal matchup against the Kansas State Wildcats, a team that could give Sean Miller's team an early-game buzz with an energetic and attacking philosophy.

Teams so far have slowed Arizona down, keeping the possessions low in order to keep one of the best defensive teams in the nation from getting in transition. That's led to the Wildcats taking a while to wake up. But KSU and coach Bruce Weber might not go that route.

The other Wildcats have been scoring well this young season at 82 points per game, and the possibility they press and hound Arizona could actually play in UA's favor. Either it'll shake them awake or they'll be playing from behind.

Who to watch

Marcus Foster: The 6'2 sophomore guard has seen a ups and downs over the past two games. Against Long Beach State, Kansas State's only loss in four games this year, Foster went 1-for-13 from the field. He followed that with a 24-point performance in the Wildcats' 88-79 win over Purdue that advanced them to the semifinal round of the Maui tournament. Foster can get to the rim and is shooting 48 percent from three-point range on nearly six attempts per game. UA will need to run him off the line and, like they do, force long twos -- Foster is shooting just 10 percent on two-point jumpers this year, per Hoop-Math.

Thomas Gipson: The 6'7, 265 pound forward leads the team by averaging 15 points per game and could be one of the most efficient players in the country, to this point. He is shooting 74 percent from the field, and that is coming by more than easy shots at the rim or off offensive boards. Gipson can step out to a degree and knock down jumpers, but he's also fantastic at getting to the line eight times per game.

The three might be open

Kansas State's pressuring could benefit Arizona if Miller's Wildcats can make the right passes off dribble penetration. So far, teams have sunk into the paint just like last season, but if KSU commits to playing its normal style, a drive, dish and extra pass by Arizona could lead to an open three-pointer. T.J. McConnell, Gabe York and others will obviously have to be ready and willing to shoot, then knock the shots down if and when that happens.

It's likely to occur. KSU actually allows 36.7 percent of opponent attempts (and on 39.7 percent shooting) from beyond the three-point line compared to 32.2 percent at the rim and 31.2 percent on two-point jumpers. Compare that to Arizona for no good reason other than to understand the defense is doing what it's expected (for the most part). Miller's team is allowing 29.2 percent of opponent shots from three, 55.9 on two-point jumpers and 14.9 percent at the rim. Yes, it's early, but those numbers are looking as good or better than last season's opponent shot allocations.


5:30 p.m. MST