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Arizona men’s basketball hoping to show defense just as stellar as offense in Top 3 clash with Purdue

arizona-mens-college-basketball-purdue-keshad-johnson-tommy-lloyd-duke Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona is looked at as an offensive juggernaut in college basketball, but what the Wildcats have done on the defensive side of the ball this season has been just as impressive.

UA is first in the country in scoring differential (+30.1), first in defensive rebound percentage (85.4) and fifth in defensive rebounds per game (32.4).

“I feel like Tommy Lloyd as a head coach, he doesn’t get the credit he needs to on the defensive end,” Keshad Johnson said Thursday. “A lot of that is individually him recruiting us and stuff like that, but he’s locked into the details even more than we are. I feel like as the years come upon, more people will respect the knowledge and intelligence that he has on the defensive end and how that’s going to show on the court.”

Top-ranked Arizona’s defense will be challenged when it faces No. 3 Purdue on Saturday in Indianapolis. It will be the program's first top-3 matchup since UA faced No. 3 Duke in 1997.

Purdue has arguably the most dominant player in college basketball and last year’s Naismith Men’s Player of the Year, Zach Edey. Arizona’s bigs will have to stay out of foul trouble when guarding the 7-foot-4 center.

“Challenges are countless, he’s an overall great big man,” Johnson said of Edey. “One of the best in the country, he’s very comfortable getting double teamed, he knows how to pass out, he’s tall and everything like that. He’s probably seen every obstacle thrown at him and everything’s so we just gotta try our best to just make it as hard as possible.”

Edey has gone to the line more than anyone in college basketball this season but Johnson thinks Edey is going to have to worry about staying out of foul trouble himself when dealing with UA’s frontcourt.

“Same way it works for him. It works for us, vice versa, we’re gonna get people in trouble as well,” Johnson said. “We’re probably just going to try to do the same thing right back at him. On the other end with him, we just gonna try to play physical but play smart.”

UA’s depth will give Edey trouble with being able to throw multiple 7-footers as well as the scrappiness of Johnson on defense.

“I can give you a lot of answers, quote unquote answers, but it’s just going to be determined on how much he can keep up with our depth,” Johnson said. “We got four seven-footers, including myself to being somebody that’s physically draining. I will say we just have to try to make it harder for him.”

Tommy Lloyd is preparing UA for anything that Purdue throws at them and is coming into the game with more than one potential scheme.

“I think every game you go into you have multiple plans,” Lloyd said. “I think you really limit your team, if you say there’s only one way to win this game, and so that’s why games are fun to play and basketball is so interesting because the flow of the game, offensive to defense, defense to offense, it’s a constant transition. If you’re just going to hang your hat on one thing, I think it’s pretty tough to beat anybody.”