In their final non-conference game of the season, the Arizona Wildcats square off against the UConn Huskies on Thursday night in McKale Center.
The Wildcats (9-3) are winners of six straight behind the fantastic play of Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier and are looking to go out on a high-note before starting Pac-12 play against Arizona State on Dec. 30.
UConn (7-3) has had their share of struggles this season with their three losses coming by a combined 64 points. Though they do hold a nice victory over one Pac-12 school, a win against Oregon in the PK80 Invitational back on Thanksgiving. This late in the season, the Huskies are embarking on their first true road game of the season on Thursday night, a tough move to make toward the end of December, and McKale Center is not the ideal place to do it.
Even with the home-court advantage and UConn’s inconsistent play, Arizona will need to make a few things happen on Thursday night to get the job done. Here are three keys to a seventh straight Wildcat victory:
Win the rebounding battle
What this year’s UConn Huskies team lacks in talent and athleticism, they make up for in toughness. There’s been a common theme for Connecticut in one specific stat.
In all seven of UConn’s wins, they’ve out-rebounded their opponent. In their three losses, they were crushed on the glass. Perfect example being their most recent win over Coppin State.
It was a home game against a team that now sits at 0-12. One of, if not the worst team in college basketball. UConn only won by 13 points and they needed an outrageous 20 offensive rebounds to get the job done.
Arizona has been pretty good on the glass this season with a defensive rebounding percentage of 77 percent. If they take away UConn’s second chances and create some of their own, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a way that the Huskies steal one in McKale tonight.
Bottle up Jalen Adams
UConn has one significant scoring threat and that’s their do-it-all junior point guard, Jalen Adams.
Adams is averaging 19.2 points per game, second best among all players from the AAC. He’s not especially efficient, shooting just under 45 percent from the floor and 34 percent from deep. It’s more about volume with Adams as he’s the primary scorer on a team devoid of many options on offense.
Adams takes 17 shots a game and should take at least that many on Thursday night to try and keep up with Arizona’s high-octane offense that’s averaging just over 84 points per game. Look for Rawle Alkins to take the duty of guarding Adams on plenty of possessions tonight with him being the most lockdown defender on the perimeter for Arizona. Adams will take shots, it’s up to Arizona to make sure that the majority of them are bad looks.
Status of Allonzo Trier
Things sound like they’re coming along nicely for Trier to play Thursday despite leaving Monday night’s contest with a knee injury.
Trier has been magnificent of late with incredible efficiency. In the last three games, Trier has 62 points on 15-of-23 from the floor and 8-of-10 from beyond the arc.
In fact, those three games are all since Rawle Alkins returned and Arizona has been at full strength. As a team, they’ve averaged 86.7 points per game in that time. At full strength, the Wildcats’ offense has been dominant. Meanwhile, UConn has only exceeded the 80-point mark twice this season and needed overtime in one of those.
If Trier plays and Arizona has their full high-powered rotation intact, the Wildcats could win in a landslide.