If your Sunday Funday plans involve any day drinking, it might be wise to pace yourself. That’s because the Arizona Wildcats are in action in the early evening, and some liquid courage might help with the experience.
Arizona (14-11, 5-7 Pac-12) wraps up the Rocky Mountain road trip by visiting the Colorado Buffaloes (15-9, 6-6). The Wildcats beat Colorado 64-56 in the conference opener on Jan. 3, part of a 4-0 start to league play, but currently ride a six-game skid that is their longest in more than 35 years.
Tipoff at the Coors Event Center is set for 6 p.m. MST and the game will air on ESPNU. Here are some things you should be looking out for:
When will it end?
Arizona hasn’t won a game since Jan. 19, when it downed Oregon State 82-71 at home despite losing center Chase Jeter to a back injury just a few minutes in. What’s followed has been its worst losing streak since 1983, when it lost six straight early on during Lute Olson’s first year at the helm.
Another loss and the Wildcats will be doing something it hasn’t since the infamous 1982-83 campaign, when they were 4-24. That year they dropped 16 in a row, including 14 straight to open conference play.
Losing in Boulder wouldn’t be a shock. In fact, it’s been arguably the toughest place in the conference for Arizona to win in the Sean Miller era, with the Wildcats 2-4 at Coors including losses the last two visits in 2018 and 2016.
Arizona hasn’t won at Colorado since February 2015.
If the Wildcats lose Sunday that means it will go at least a month between victories. The next game is Feb. 21 at home against winless California.
Buff on D
Colorado is allowing 69.5 points per game in Pac-12 play, third-best in the league, and during a four-game win streak the Buffaloes are holding opponents to 38.6 percent shooting overall and 29 percent from three-point range.
Not great news for an Arizona team that is last in the league in shooting (39.9 percent). An unexpected byproduct of the Wildcats’ shooting woes has been strong offensive rebounding numbers, a conference-best 12.4 per game, but the Buffaloes are tops in the Pac-12 in preventing offensive boards.
Leading the way is 6-foot-7 sophomore guard Tyler Bey, who is third in the league in overall rebound at 9.2 per game with 7.3 on the defensive glass. He had 22 points and 17 rebounds (16 defensive) in Thursday’s 77-73 win over ASU.
Stopping the hot hand
While Arizona did a good job dealing with Utah’s leading scorer, Sedrick Barefield, that came at the expense of leaving Utes sharpshooter Parker Van Dyke open far too often on the perimeter. Van Dyke was 7 of 10 from three and finished with a career-high 23 points.
That’s the 17th different player to score at least 20 against Arizona, 10 of which have come in Pac-12 play. Eight of the Wildcats’ 11 league opponents have had at least one 20-point scorer.
Colorado is one of the few that didn’t, but it’s got a guy that’s more than capable of doing so in sophomore guard McKinley Wright. He leads the Buffs in scoring (13.5) and assists (5.0), is coming off back-to-back 20-point games against USC and ASU and had 17 against Arizona in Tucson last month.
Ira on the road
It’s quite common for athletes, regardless of the sport, to fare better on their home court/field than in other venues. In Pac-12 play it’s been the exact opposite for sophomore forward Ira Lee, who has been a beast outside of McKale Center the past two months.
Lee had 11 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench at Utah, his fourth double-digit scoring game this season with each coming in a Pac-12 road game. He set his career high in scoring with 12 at Stanford on Jan. 9 and matched that Jan. 24 at USC, earning him his first career start at UCLA (where he had 11 points) two days later.
In six Pac-12 road games, Lee is averaging 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 53.2 percent. He’s shooting 60 percent in conference home games but has been far less involved, averaging 5.3 points and 3.6 rebounds.