After sweeping the Bay Area schools last weekend, the Wildcats (14-2, 3-0) knocked off the Utah Utes on Thursday in a tight 10-point victory.
Dusan Ristic, who tied his career-high with 18 points, dedicated his win to his grandfather who passed away earlier in the day. Parker Jackson-Cartwright, in his third game back from a high ankle sprain, played 27 minutes and had nine assists to zero turnovers.
Despite Jackson-Cartwright’s excellence, Arizona committed 10 turnovers, which turned into eight points for Utah.
“I’m happy with our effort,” head coach Sean Miller said. “We have a lot of new faces in big roles and when you get into conference play it’s not just going to be easy. Even some of our turnovers, I would be willing to bet that out of the 56 points Utah scored, at least 10 of them came because of our offense.”
Defensively, Miller said the Wildcats were like Jekyll and Hyde. The Utes shot 52 percent in the first half, but just 36 percent in the second half.
In the end, the Utes shot 43 percent from the field and 4-21 from 3. Arizona’s decision to force Utah to hit shots from the perimeter worked as planned.
The Wildcats have the No. 9 defense in college basketball, per KenPom.com, and the No. 32 offense.
Through Thursday, Arizona is the only team in college basketball that has yet to allow an opponent to score 70 points or more in a game.
Colorado will try to become the first team to do it on Saturday. Given the Buffaloes are Arizona’s second game of the weekend, Miller said he hasn’t watched much of them.
“It’s hard in the Pac-12,” Miller explained. “You can’t really deal with that second team until you get (past) the first team. Obviously our assistant coaches know them a lot better than me, so we have to be ready, (and prepare) all over again.”
What Miller does know is that Colorado forward Wesley Gordon knows how to dominate the glass. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 7.9 rebounds per contest, with more than a third of them being of the offensive variety.
“I know that the way Colorado plays they’re very, very physical. They rebound the ball at both ends,” Miller said. “Wesley Gordon, he’s like Dennis Rodman when he plays us. I saw him at Media Day and I told him ‘you’re not allowed to offensive rebound against us.’…he’s a great offensive rebounder.”
Gordon can be terrifying on the offensive glass, but Colorado’s offense as a whole leaves something to be desired.
The Buffaloes have the 109th-best offense in college basketball, per KenPom.com. They are shooting 44 percent as a team and 33 percent from 3.
Derrick White leads the Buffaloes in scoring, averaging 16.3 points per game. The 6-foot-5 guard is shooting over 50 percent on the season, including an impressive 42.3 3-point percentage.
After White is Xavier Johnson, who has made his ill feelings toward Arizona known in the past. The 6-7 forward is averaging 13.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 51 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3.
Johnson was involved in an altercation in Colorado’s one-point loss to ASU on Thursday and it appeared that it would keep him out of Saturday’s game, but the Pac-12 confirmed that Johnson will not be suspended against Arizona.
The Buffaloes — playing mostly man defense — rank as the 54th-best defensive team in the country.
Arizona has won 14 straight games at home and has beaten Colorado in seven of the last eight matchups, though the Buffaloes did beat the Wildcats in Boulder last season.
In total, the Wildcats have won eight games in a row, but have a slim margin of error if they’re going to extend their winning streak to nine games.
“Of course I’m concerned,” Miller said about his team dealing with the quick turnaround from Thursday’s game. “We don’t have the margin to mess around. If we’re not ready, we won’t win. So hopefully we’ll have a couple good days and we’ll be ready to go.”
How to watch
Time: 7:30 p.m. MST
TV: Pac-12 Network
Announcers: Ted Robinson & Bill Walton (!)
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