No. 6 Arizona will be facing a contrast of styles when it hosts surging Colorado on Thursday night in Tucson, Ariz.
The Wildcats (12-1, 2-0 Pac-12) lead the nation in scoring at 89.9 points per game and have the shortest possession length in the conference (14.3 seconds), according to KenPom.com.
The Buffaloes (11-3, 3-1) have won five consecutive games, but they are a slow-it-down outfit, having won three games this season while scoring no more than 60 points.
Arizona scored at least 90 points in each of its conference victories (Oregon State, Washington). Athletic wing Bennedict Mathurin, who has 55 points in his past two games combined, leads the scoring parade. He is averaging 18.9 points and is getting hotter, putting up at least 24 points in five of his past seven games.
Tommy Lloyd’s Arizona team is more than a one-man show, however. The Wildcats will attack Colorado in transition with depth, speed, balance and a share-the-ball mentality. They are first nationally with 21.8 assists per game.
“The transition defense is one of those things that’ll be tested in Tucson,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “I can promise you that.”
Arizona starter Dalen Terry exemplifies the depth and unselfishness, not needing to score much to make a big difference. Terry, averaging 6.8 points, put together a brilliant game in Arizona’s most recent outing, racking up 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists against Washington on Jan. 3.
“Dalen’s a do-all player and he’s been working really hard on his shot,” Lloyd said.
“We have been doing some tweaks here and there. I just told him, ‘Listen, we don’t need to stress out about it because you do so many other things well. Let’s not forget about those and just focus on something that maybe isn’t your strength.’ To see him knock down a couple of threes I think was great for our team and great for his confidence.”
Colorado has a solid starting five, led by Jabari Walker, who loves to stress the defense by attacking the basket. He is averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds, and he has attempted 75 free throws — all team highs. Walker has seven double-doubles this season.
He’ll be even more dangerous if — or when — he finds his outside shot. Walker has made 9 of 40 3-point attempts (22.5 percent) after hitting 23 of 44 (52.3 percent) last season.
Walker and veteran Evan Battey (12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds) are a formidable frontcourt. Colorado has a plus-7.9 rebounding margin.
“When we play with aggressiveness, we’re pretty darn good,” said Boyle, who earned his 300th career win Sunday as Colorado topped visiting Washington 78-64. “Now the biggest thing I’m trying to impress upon our team is the fact that we have to try to make plays for each other.”
Arizona’s frontcourt is dynamic. Azuolas Tubelis is averaging 14.8 points and 6.1 rebounds, while Christian Koloko contributes 13.5 points and 7.2 boards per game to go along with 44 total blocked shots.
Considering that the Wildcats sport a plus-10.6 rebounding margin, the battle on the glass will be strength on strength.
Arizona is 9-0 against Colorado in Tucson since the Buffaloes joined the Pac-12 for the 2011-12 season.
–Field Level Media