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Arizona basketball: Cats see themselves in Buffs

Two similar squads have provided many thrills in brief history
2013-03-14T00:01:00Z 2014-08-01T11:28:15Z Arizona basketball: Cats see themselves in BuffsBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 14, 2013 12:01 am  • 

LAS VEGAS - Because they were flying to Las Vegas on Wednesday afternoon, the Arizona Wildcats didn't get a chance to watch Colorado's 74-68 Pac-12 tournament win over Oregon State live.

They hardly needed to.

No two teams know each other better than Colorado and Arizona, which will meet today in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals. No two teams have as similar of a defensive philosophy, and no two teams in the conference may have put on a better series of shows in the past two seasons.

"I think there is a lot of mutual respect between the programs," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "They're talented. We're talented. They're very solid defensively. ... We've played them twice and they've played us twice. Familiarity helps for sure."

On Wednesday against Oregon State, it was more of the same look for Colorado: The Buffs held the Beavers to 39.7 percent shooting and out-rebounded them 43-30.

That, and the fact that ubiquitous shot blocker/rebounder Andre Roberson is back in the Buffs' lineup after an illness sidelined him last week, is all you may need to know about their first-round game.

"I wasn't surprised they beat Oregon State," said UA assistant coach James Whitford, who scouted the Buffaloes all season. "We really respect them. … We certainly have a lot of similarities with them on defense. They play the way we play."

That likeness may explain why Arizona and Colorado have had some of the Pac-12's hardest-fought games over the past two seasons, since the Buffs joined the conference. Last season, there was Colorado's one-point win in Boulder and its two-point win in the Pac-12 tournament final; this year provided Sabatino Chen's infamous waved-off shot at McKale on Jan. 3, when Arizona eventually won 92-83 overtime, and CU's emotional 71-58 win in Boulder on Feb. 14.

The Valentine's Day game was considered revenge for Colorado's Jan. 3 loss, though CU guard Spencer Dinwiddie said the Buffaloes never did feel like they lost that day.

"We know it goes in the record book as a loss," Dinwiddie said. "But a lot of people around the country have the same feeling that we do. Even some of their players do because we kind of talked about it on the floor last time."

Considering all that drama, it was probably not a surprise Wednesday, when Dinwiddie and Colorado guard Askia Booker were asked in separate interviews about facing Arizona, they both smiled.

"They're probably the most fun to play," Booker said. "We match up very well with them. They're long and athletic, great players. They can score and can defend and they've got good shot blockers. Especially with Andre back, we've gotta keep playing defense and rebounding."

Roberson returned from what Colorado officials are calling a "viral illness" Wednesday after missing two games. Although he committed five turnovers, Roberson managed 12 points and seven rebounds.

"He was a little rusty today, but in terms of his defense and clogging up the lane, Andre was terrific," Boyle said. "It wasn't his best outing but we're certainly a better team with him than we are without him."

Roberson logged 25 minutes Wednesday but he also had plenty of help. Center Josh Scott had 10 rebounds, while freshman wing Xavier Johnson had eight rebounds and Boyle also credited him for playing strong defense.

The defense and rebounding helped Colorado overcome its own poor shooting: CU made just 39.3 percent of its shots from the field and was outscored in the paint 26-24 by OSU, which had 14 points and 13 rebounds from rangy big man Eric Moreland.

"Sometimes in tournament basketball, you've got to win ugly," Boyle said. "Offensively, we didn't have our best game … but I told these guys in the locker room that our program is predicated on defensive and rebounding."

They did, however, also throw in one piece of pretty impressive offense. As the final seconds ticked off in the first half, Chen dished to Dinwiddie, who lunged just over the halfcourt line and hit a buzzer-beater to give the Buffs a 32-26 halftime lead.

"I was just thinking, 'Just get open and get it up there,' " Dinwiddie said. "That's all you can do when you've got a shot like that. About 75 percent of the way in, I heard Sab say, 'That looks good.' I was like 'It does.' And then it went in."

Of course it did. Colorado, which led by up to 12 points in the second half and held off a late Beavers rally, remains undefeated in Pac-12 tournament play.

They strung four wins together for their improbable title last year and now get to play UA for the chance to keep another run going.

"When everything's one-and-done, that gives us more urgency to go out there and play," Roberson said. "When we have a sense of urgency, I feel like we're unbeatable."

On StarNet: Join your fellow fans in a live chat during the Wildcats' tournament game today at live.azstarnet.com

Today

• What: Arizona vs. Colorado

• Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

• When: 2:30 p.m.

• TV; radio: Pac-12 Arizona; 1490-AM, 107.5-FM

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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