SALT LAKE CITY - Fed up with his team's slow starts at the beginning of both halves over the past three games, Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller says he will change his starting lineup Sunday against Utah.
Miller threatened to change the lineup a week earlier, but kept with it in part because the Wildcats' current group was 18-1 at that point. But since then, the Wildcats have lost two straight games and continued what Miller called an "alarming" problem before the first media timeout of each half over the past three games.
In those combined 24-plus minutes, in games against Stanford, California and Colorado, the Wildcats have been outscored 53-27.
"I don't think we have (the lineup) completely worked out yet," Miller told the Star on Friday at the team's hotel in downtown Salt Lake City. "We want to watch Utah and prepare for the game. But I guarantee you there won't be the same five guys walking out there."
Miller declined to detail what combinations he was considering but, when asked who he might give a chance to, mentioned forwards Grant Jerrett and Angelo Chol. He also played starter Brandon Ashley only 14 minutes against Colorado
Jerrett has been recovering from a foot stress reaction that kept him out against Stanford, and he only played 13 minutes at Colorado, with five points and one rebound.
Chol's play jumped out Thursday. He had eight points and four rebounds while shooting 4 of 6 from the field over 20 minutes.
"Grant is a possibility," Miller said. "I don't know if he played much different than he has. The guy who played different was Angelo. He really played well and it was great to see. Played really hard and was catching the ball well. That might have been the best game of the season for him."
Chol also had six points and a career-high eight rebounds against Stanford last week.
While Chol played a career-high 24 minutes against the Cardinal because Jerrett was sidelined and Ashley fouled out, he began playing early against the Buffaloes because Miller went deeper into his bench to keep his players better rested at the high altitude.
But Chol soon began playing so well that Miller kept with him.
"One of the things I was excited about was seeing Angelo Chol play the way he did," Miller said after Thursday's game. "He really played well. You can tell his confidence is growing and he made some really key plays for us in the first half especially. He played about as well in his role as anybody on our team."
The Wildcats did not practice Friday after taking a charter flight from Denver and arriving at their hotel at 2:30 a.m.
One common theory says Arizona will come into Huntsman Center more motivated Sunday after losing two straight games for the first time this season.
But Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak isn't sold on that being the case. The Utes played Oregon tough last week after the Ducks had just lost at home to Colorado.
"The thought among the players and our staff was you want Oregon to win at home against Colorado because then you think you're going to get an easier (time) when it comes your turn," Krystkowiak said Friday after the Utes practiced. "I don't necessarily agree with that. I think this league has shown it's not about the last game as much as it's about the next game."
Under the radar
Colorado's Xavier Johnson is making Arizona and a lot of other Pac-12 teams pay for not offering him a scholarship - and serving notice that he can outplay freshmen who were ranked higher coming out of high school.
Johnson was Scout's No. 59-rated player in the 2012 class, but Scout analyst Josh Gershon said Colorado was the only Pac-12 school who extended a serious scholarship offer.
Johnson had 13 points and six rebounds against UA on Jan. 3, then had 12 of his 19 points in the first half Thursday against the Wildcats. He is averaging 9.9 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent in Pac-12 games.
Miller said Johnson could be the conference's best freshman, or at least one of them.
"Like with (once lightly recruited CU guard) Spencer Dinwiddie, he's really a diamond in the rough - getting Xavier was a great thing for them," Miller said. "And I think it's a reminder that high school is over and the race begins all over again when you get to college. I think Xavier Johnson is well aware of that."
Johnson indicated after Thursday's game that all that lack of attention motivates him.
"Playing against Grant Jerrett in high school and some of those other players I played (against), I knew them when I grew up," Johnson said. "It adds fuel to the fire and that's why I was able to do what I did."
• What: No. 9 Arizona at Utah
• When: 1 p.m. Sunday
• TV; radio: Pac-12 Arizona; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM