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Arizona basketball: Wildcats need to “hone in” on controlling the glass

Arizona has the size and athleticism to be a dominant rebounding team, but it doesn’t always have the right mindset

California v Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats looked like two different teams when they swept Bay Area schools last week.

On Wednesday, they were passive on the boards, allowing Stanford — a team that is not known for controlling the glass — to grab 12 offensive rebounds and turn them into 17 second-chance points.

On Saturday, the Wildcats were aggressive on the boards, limiting Cal — a team that is known for controlling the glass — to four offensive rebounds and four second-chance points.

“Our defensive rebounding against Cal was outstanding,” UA head coach Sean Miller said Monday at his weekly press conference. “It wasn’t nearly as good against Stanford, but I think it really shows how talented we can be rebounding the ball when we’re locked in. If you can do it against Cal, you can do it against any team in the country, because they’re great at getting second shots.”

The Wildcats needed a wake-up call, and their performance against Stanford was it.

“They had 12 offensive rebounds between two guys and that let us know that we weren’t playing as hard as we could’ve,” said center Chance Comanche, who tracked down a team-high five rebounds against the Golden Bears. “Twelve offensive rebounds for a team is a lot in general and once that happened, that woke everybody on our team up, including our bigs. We just told ourselves “OK, we have to change something because if we keep doing this we’re going to start losing and we can’t have that happen.’”

Loaded with three 7-footers, the Wildcats certainly have the size to be a dominant rebounding team. According to KenPom, Arizona’s roster is fourth in college basketball in average height.

Arizona also has a plethora of athleticism on the perimeter to go with that size. As such, it has all the ingredients to be a team that consistently controls the glass.

Well, not all them. At least not all the time.

Sometimes the Wildcats are short on intangibles like effort, determination, and toughness — all of which are needed to be a strong rebounding team.

“I just see sometimes we take plays off, including me,” Comanche said. “Because if we wanted to, we could get all the rebounds.

“We have to get back to that. We were doing that at first, and we started dropping off. I don’t know what happened, including me, but the coaching staff has been emphasizing rebounding, blocking out, and offensive rebounding a lot. And now our bigs and our team is locking back on that.”

Arizona’s performance against Cal was a major step in the right direction. Like Miller said, it proved the Wildcats can outrebound even the stingiest of teams on any night.

However, their ability to rebound with that type of tenaciousness on a nightly basis is a still a question mark — and they recognize it.

“We have to hone in on that,” Comanche said. “If we just control the glass and the boards, then the game will be ours because we have the bigger, stronger, dominant team. We just don’t always use that to our advantage. So I think once we start doing it like we did against Cal, it’ll make the game easier for everybody.”

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire