Boulder, CO (SportsNetwork.com) - Embarking on their final road trip of the season, the seventh-ranked Arizona Wildcats will play a pair of games outside of the McKale Center this week, starting with Thursday night's Pac-12 showdown with the Colorado Buffaloes at the Coors Events Center.
Sean Miller's Wildcats hold a one-game lead atop the Pac-12 standings with four games to play. At 12-2 in conference play, Arizona holds a slight edge over Utah (11-3), which the Wildcats play on Saturday. Arizona has posted four straight wins to improve to 24-3 overall, including a 57-47 victory over UCLA last weekend.
Tad Boyle's Buffaloes would like nothing better than to play spoiler, at least for one more game. Colorado, which is just 12-14 overall, has long been out of the conference race with a mere 5-9 league ledger. CU has dropped two straight and five of its last six games, including Saturday's 72-58 setback at Oregon State. However, Colorado is a decent 10-4 at the Coors Events Center this season.
Arizona holds a narrow 12-11 advantage in the all-time series with Colorado thanks to wins in each of the last five meetings. Arizona is seeking the regular-season sweep after posting a 68-54 victory in Tucson back on Jan. 15.
Arizona has shown the ability to win games at both ends of the floor and last weekend against an offensively aggressive team in UCLA, it was a stellar defensive effort that proved to be the difference. It was difficult offensive performance for both squads, as Arizona shot a poor .340 from the floor, while UCLA failed to take advantage at a mere .381 effort. The usual suspects for Arizona failed to deliver much, but luckily players like Gabe York (13 pts) and Dusan Ristic (12 pts) stepped up, along with point guard T.J. McConnell (11 pts).
Arizona is at its best when the frontcourt gets involved. The team has shown few weaknesses on either end of the floor this season, averaging 75.6 ppg, while holding foes to just 58.7 . Freshman forward Stanley Johnson is one of the real rising stars in the conference and enters this game averaging team- highs of 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Fellow forwards Brandon Ashley (11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (11.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg) give the team frontcourt options. McConnell (9.9 ppg) is one of the conference's top playmakers, tied for the Pac-12 lead in assists per game (6.0).
The Buffaloes were no match for the Beavers in Corvallis over the weekend, but not many teams have been. Oregon State jumped all over Colorado, taking a 34-12 lead into intermission before earning the 14-point win over the Buffs. Colorado did itself no favors by shooting a mere .346 from the floor, while turning the ball over a whopping 22 times. Xavier Johnson led the way in defeat with 12 points. Tre'Shaun Fletcher and Wesley Gordon added 11 and 10 points, respectively. However, talented big man Josh Scott was neutralized, posting just four points and three rebounds in 28 minutes of work.
Compounding the problem at Oregon State was the fact that explosive guard Askia Booker also had an off-game. The 6-2 junior had just nine points against the Beavers, but is still one of the Pac-12's top scorers, averaging 17.0 ppg (fifth in the league). The 6-11 Scott is next in the scoring column at 12.7 ppg, while tied with Gordon (7.7 ppg) with 7.7 rpg each. Johnson (11.1 ppg) rounds out the team's top scoring threats.