After Arizona played arguably its worst game of the season against ASU last Friday, Sean Miller was the first to admit that some changes need to be made, particularly in regard to the team's bench support.
The Wildcats, still forming a new identity following the loss of Brandon Ashley, didn't receive a single point in Tempe from a bench player and Miller never once made a substitution during overtime.
“I think playing our bench is key,” Miller said at his press conference yesterday, “because once you decide not to play, you have players playing ‘not to make mistakes.”
In order for the Wildcats to avoid slipping to Utah when the two teams face each other Wednesday night, Arizona must get more production from its depth and that starts with Gabe York, Elliott Pitts and Jordin Mayes.
While some things have been constants practically all year – such as the play of Arizona's starting backcourt – it is the intangibles like three point shooting that could dictate how far the Wildcats advance in March.
Right now, York, Pitts and Mayes can't consistently knock down shots when they are in the game. The three went a combined 0-8 against ASU (Mayes didn't attempt a field goal).
There's obviously no answer to poor shooting, other than to improve the efficiency of shots – something Miller has no doubt been fastidiously focusing on.
A road game at Utah won't be an ideal environment to break a slump, as the Utes are one of the better defensive teams in the conference and held Arizona to 40 percent from the field in Tucson last month.
Utah's tendency is to deliberately slow down the game, forcing as few possessions as possible. Therefore, it is even more crucial for Arizona to convert on its offensive opportunities.
If there was any positive takeaway from the Wildcats' loss to ASU, it was the terrific defensive played up until the final minutes of the second overtime.
The tenacious man-to-man pressure employed by Miller has been a staple of Arizona all season and Wednesday night shouldn't be any different.
The Utes do have some dangerous scorers in Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge, who scored 19 and 13 points respectively in Tucson. However, the two had to take a combined 26 shots to score those 32 points, which amounted to over half of Utah's total production.
The x-factor could very well be the play of shooting guard Dakari Tucker. The sophomore has been on-and-off again but in his his past two outings, he has made five of six three-pointers.
In a projected low-scoring affair, the three-point shooting battle could be the difference, along with free throws. And unless Arizona shoots significantly better from both lines, the Wildcats might be in for another late-game battle.